LOCAL L.A. Now

After assemblyman's dad killed, L.A. councilman got 'frantic' call

In the moments after Assemblyman Mike Gatto learned that his father had been shot to death in a family home in Silver Lake on Wednesday night, the Democrat put in frantic a call to a longtime friend.

Los Angeles City Councilman Joe Buscaino, a former Los Angeles police officer, said Gatto called him after his father, 78-year-old Joseph Gatto, was found dead about 8:15 p.m.

Buscaino, who described the Gatto clan as being like family, said he immediately notified City Council President Herb Wesson and Mayor Eric Garcetti, who lives in the same Silver Lake neighborhood where Joseph Gatto was killed. He was found slumped over a desk by his daughter Wednesday night after she hadn't heard from him all day. Los Angeles police said the house had been ransacked, but were still investigating a motive.

Buscaino first met Gatto's son, Mike, at the annual Feast of San Gennaro festival in Hollywood years ago. Both were interested in politics and came from large Italian American families. They bonded instantly.

Buscaino supported Mike Gatto in his run for Assembly. Gatto was the first elected official to endorse Buscaino in his long-shot run for City Council. 

Buscaino described the elder Gatto as a supportive was incredibly proud of his children's success.

"You saw Mr. Gatto at all of his kids' events," said Buscaino. "He was always the man behind the camera, taking photos. He would just swell with pride as a father."

Buscaino also grew close to Gatto's daughter, Marianna, executive director of the Italian American Museum of Los Angeles. Buscaino introduced her to her fiance.

"Just to know that Mr. Gatto is not going to get to walk her down the aisle is hard for all of us to accept," he said.

Lauren Wayne, who said she has known the family for two decades, said the wedding had been set for May. She left a small bouquet of red and white flowers Thursday morning near crime scene tape roping off the 2800 block of Bright Lane, where the Gatto home is located.

Wayne said Marianna Gatto ate dinner with her father every Wednesday night. 

“I saw it on the news and I didn’t believe it,” Wayne said. “So I called [Marianna] and she said it was true. It’s like a bad dream.”

Garcetti issued a statement Thursday saying LAPD Chief Charlie Beck had promised an “aggressive investigation.”

"My thoughts and prayers are with the Gatto family,” Garcetti said. “This tragedy is devastating to them and is of concern to the entire community.”

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Twitter: @katelinthicum

kate.linthicum@latimes.com

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