A 17-year-old was shot to death near a Catholic church as he walked home from school Wednesday afternoon.
Giovanni Avelar of Van Nuys was shot several times in the chest with a .22-caliber rifle near Our Lady of Peace church in the 9100 block of Langdon Avenue, said Capt. Joseph Curreri of the Los Angeles Police Department's Devonshire Division.
Witnesses said two young men ran from the scene before police arrived, Curreri said.
"We know the victim was not a gangster," Curreri said.
Friends and family members expressed shock at the shooting, describing Giovanni as an earnest student who worked part-time to help support his mother, three brothers and one sister.
"He was just walking home," said his mother, Ana Avelar. "I hope they find whoever did this. I always told him to be safe. He was a very good student and a hard worker."
Giovanni worked part time stuffing advertising inserts into the Los Angeles Times on weekends, she said.
A junior at James Monroe High School, Avelar was still wearing his backpack filled with schoolbooks when police arrived. He was shot about a mile from school and half a mile from his home in Panorama City.
"This street is bad, it's not safe," said Maria Elena Mojica, who has lived in a nearby apartment complex for three years. "There are so many gangsters causing trouble here. I'm sick to think the boy who was shot is the same age as my son."
The scene is across the street from a day-care center, where police escorted parents one at a time to pick up their children.