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Mom Pleads for Help Finding Son’s Killer; $50,000 Offered

Times Staff Writer

As a Los Angeles official offered a $50,000 reward Friday for information leading to the killer of a teenager trying to protect a disabled friend from a gang attack, the boy’s mother tearfully disclosed that her grief was compounded Thursday night when a second son attempted suicide.

Leticia Bravo, whose 15-year-old son, Samuel Salas, was shot to death Aug. 13, broke down during a news conference as she asked residents to “please ... help me find the person” who took her son’s life.

“If you’re a mother, you feel what I feel,” she said. “I can’t believe it’s true.... [Now] I have another son in the hospital.”

Police said Salas’ 18-year-old brother, whose name was not released, stabbed himself but was expected to recover. It was unclear whether the act was prompted by the slaying, LAPD Det. Mike Coffey said.

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Councilman Tom LaBonge said the city will pay $50,000 for information leading to an arrest and conviction in the slaying. With Bravo at his side, he implored the public to step forward.

“Their lives will never be the same. But let’s try to help this family.... We’ve got to find this very bad individual. We must right this wrong,” LaBonge said during a news conference at the North Hollywood police station.

Coffey said investigators are focusing their hunt for suspects on the neighborhood near Tujunga Avenue and Oxnard Street where Salas was shot to death less than two blocks from his home.

“We believe these gangsters are right over our shoulder,” Coffey said. “I can’t even count the acts of violence we believe this gang is responsible for. They’re very violent. They don’t care who their victims are.” He declined to identify the gang by name.

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Salas’ 21-year-old friend, who was paralyzed on his left side by a car accident, told police that about a dozen teenagers and young adults knocked him to the ground in the 11400 block of Tiara Street about 11 p.m. They were pummeling him when Salas came to his aid, telling them to leave him alone.

Coffey said the two had just left a party.

“They didn’t want to stay because there weren’t any girls and they didn’t like the music,” the detective said. “They’re walking in an alley controlled by gangsters, and they’re asked that fatal question, ‘Where are you from?’ ”

The phrase is used by gang members demanding to know someone’s gang affiliation and is often a prelude to an assault.

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Neither victim had gang connections or a criminal record, according to police. Salas had moved to North Hollywood two months ago from Texas, where he had been living with his father.

The disabled friend suffered bruises and a bloody face but was not hospitalized. Police relocated him to another city for his safety.

Because leads are urgently needed in the case, LaBonge, who represents the North Hollywood area, took the unusual step of announcing the reward even though the City Council has not voted on it, said Jane Galbraith, an aide to the councilman.

She said LaBonge was confident the council would approve the reward by early next week.

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