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16 Shooting Victims Will ‘Never Have That Chance’ for Dreams

Times Staff Writers

Eliseo Rodriguez Moreno, 28, an immigrant from Mexico who worked his way up to supervisor at a jukebox factory, had just stepped out of his car in his driveway at 4 a.m. Monday when the bullets found him.

Ernest Williams, 17, a high school student, was going around the corner to see a friend Tuesday evening. He wound up scurrying beneath a parked car, where the bullets found him.

In six days, 16 people have died in a spree of homicides throughout South Los Angeles. Their deaths have left bitter and grieving families who liken the streets of Los Angeles to a war-torn country.

“In this neighborhood, it’s like Vietnam. It’s like nobody cares,” said Robert Williams, the father of victim Ernest Williams. “We go over to other countries and fight, but our own neighborhoods are like war zones.”

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Williams was a churchgoing youth, always smiling, and had no apparent connection to gangs, said his father, who has lived on 84th Place for 14 years and seen many violent deaths in that time.

“I have three sons, but he was the baby of the family,” Williams said. “He was not a gangbanger. He was a great kid. He was always smiling, and he was going to graduate from high school in the spring. He wanted to be a real estate agent and make a lot of money. Now, he’ll never have that chance.”

Miles south of the Williams home, on 204th Street, the Rodriguez family was arranging to bring the body of Eliseo Rodriguez Moreno back to his home state of Sinaloa, Mexico -- a place that has its own bloody legacy of drug violence -- where his mother and six brothers live.

Family members said Rodriguez had immigrated nine years ago, mastered English and become a factory supervisor.

In his free time, he roughhoused with his nephews, ages 4 to 11, and went to dance halls, his brother said. Each weekend night, Rodriguez dressed up in vaquero attire -- cowboy hat, dark jeans, boots and leather jacket -- and hit the South Los Angeles dance floors. One night he met his future fiancee. They became engaged two weeks ago.

“I heard the shots,” his brother, Sergio Rodriguez, said. “I told my wife, ‘I just hope this isn’t what I think it is.’ But when I got outside, there was my brother lying all in blood beside his car. You can still see the shadow of the blood on the sidewalk.”

Rodriguez said that in the 12 years he has lived in the neighborhood, police from Los Angeles and nearby Torrance don’t seem interested in stopping increasing street violence. Two years ago, Rodriguez said, he was shot by gang members who came into the area from another neighborhood. Police came, he said, but the investigation seemed perfunctory.

Daniel Lopez, 19, hadn’t been in Los Angeles long enough to be in a gang, said his aunt, Maria Lopez, who took him in eight months ago in the converted garage apartment on West 60th Street where she lives with her husband.

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On Sunday evening, Lopez went two doors down to chat with neighbors. As he sat in a chair outside their house, two men approached and opened fire, neighbors said.

“I heard them say, ‘Hey, man!’ and they started shooting. I don’t know why,” said neighbor Erika Lopez, who is not related to the family. “I heard the gunshots, and my husband ran out because Daniel was out there,” Maria Lopez said. “That’s when he saw that Daniel had been hit.”

His body will be sent to Zihuatanejo, in his native state of Jalisco, Mexico, for burial. He had a 5-month-old son, born to his girlfriend there, whom he had never seen.

Abraham Olazabal, 19, graduated from South Gate High School in 2001 and was attending a technical college in Torrance with hopes of becoming a computer draftsman. He died of multiple gunshots at 2:35 p.m. Monday in the 300 block of West 13th Street in San Pedro.

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Police said his death might have been gang-related, a notion that infuriates his family.

“Not at all,” said Yolanda Palacio, a cousin who drove from Modesto to be with Olazabal’s grieving parents. “He was just a great kid, and we’re really appalled. Some newspapers said this was gang-related, but he had no affiliation to gangs, had nothing to do with gang activity. He had no enemies.”

“Go to school, go to his girlfriend’s house, go to the gym, that’s all he did,” said sister Erika, 16.

Olazabal also left a 3-year-old sister and a 12-year-old brother. On Tuesday, friends and family brought food and flowers to his family’s home in South Gate.

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“His mom, you can’t console her,” Palacio said. “She can’t explain it. No one can explain it.”

At the home of Juan Gabriel Valenzuela on Compton Avenue in Los Angeles, family members bitterly shooed away reporters and said they did not want to talk about the Sunday morning shooting that left Valenzuela dead.

Like the other murder scenes, this one was adorned with flowers left by well-wishers.

Candles and flowers also decked the sidewalk on North Wilton Avenue in Hollywood, where Willie Yee Alfonso, 27, was killed Sunday. No one nearby knew much about the shooting.

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The other victims include:

Lorenzo Romero, 29, 420 block of West 99th Street, shot in the chest in the 2500 block of South Raymond Avenue in Los Angeles at 6:30 p.m. Sunday.

Isiah Samuel Moore Jr., 41, unknown address, died of a stab wound to the chest in the frontyard of a residence in the 400 block of East 41st Street, Los Angeles, at midnight Sunday.

Edgar Antonio Corrales, 25, last known address in the 640 block of South Downey Road, Los Angeles, died of multiple gunshot wounds at Cerano Avenue and Beverly Boulevard in Hollywood at 8:24 p.m. Monday.

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Jose S. Perez, 25, last known address in the 2550 block of Cole Place, Huntington Park, died of multiple gunshots at the same place and time as Olazabal.

John Henry Smith Jr., 33, last known address in the 11900 block of Centralia Street in Hawaiian Gardens, died of a shotgun wound to the head at 12:30 a.m. Sunday at a warehouse in the 6000 block of South Broadway in Los Angeles.

Five other victims remain unidentified.


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