LOCAL : Witnesses, Motive Elusive in Cinco de Mayo Slaying at Park

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Napoleon Armando Rivera went to Sepulveda Recreation Center on Cinco de Mayo to relax and listen to music. Late that evening, Los Angeles police found his body on a sidewalk next to the park.

Nearly three weeks later, detectives have no suspects in the fatal shooting they believe may have occurred during a robbery. But what is more baffling to them is that they have no witnesses--although hundreds of people are believed to have been at the park that evening--and that the person who reported the incident called from a pay phone more than a mile from the park.

"This happened in a park on Cinco de Mayo and we can't find any witnesses," Detective James Vojtecky said today. "We feel there had to have been people here but we haven't been able to find them. It's a strange case because we are spending our time trying to identify witnesses before we can identify a suspect."

Rivera, 28, of Panorama City, was an El Salvadoran immigrant who worked at a McDonald's.

On the evening of Saturday, May 5, investigators believe that hundreds of area residents were at the park at Kester Avenue and Parthenia Street to celebrate Cinco de Mayo with live music and family picnics.

By the time Rivera was shot at about 10 p.m., investigators concede that the number of people in the park had probably thinned considerably. But at a press conference at the park this morning, investigators said they are looking for anyone who might have witnessed the shooting or seen Rivera earlier in the evening.

Detective Phil Morritt said police were not alerted to the shooting until 11 p.m. when a man made a 911 call from a pay phone at Roscoe Boulevard and Woodman Avenue, more than a mile away. "When officers arrived at the park there was no one here," Morritt said. "They found the body."

Police said they are attempting to find the caller because there is a chance he may have seen the shooting or something that will aid the investigation. Morritt said the man, a Latino, told the emergency operator his name is Mario and that he lives in North Hollywood. He said he left the park before calling because he was with his 7-month-old son.

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