Popular Athlete at Santa Monica High Shot to Death Off-Campus
At Santa Monica High School, Eduardo “Eddie” Lopez was the class clown who loved to make others laugh. A standout right fielder on the baseball team. A good student with a bright future.
That future was cut short when Lopez, 15, was fatally shot on Pico Boulevard at 26th Street about 9:20 p.m. Tuesday by an unknown assailant wearing a dark hooded sweatshirt and a bandana over his face.
For the record:
12:00 a.m. March 3, 2006 For The Record
Los Angeles Times Friday March 03, 2006 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 1 inches; 50 words Type of Material: Correction
Santa Monica shooting -- A story in Thursday’s California section about the killing of a Santa Monica High School student referred to pockets of gang activity in the area south of Pico Boulevard. The most notable gang activity is north of Pico in an area known as the Pico Neighborhood.
Santa Monica police said the gunman shouted the name of a Los Angeles-based Latino gang and then fired several times at Lopez and two companions. He struck only Lopez, who, police said, was not known to be affiliated with a gang.
On Wednesday, many teachers at Santa Monica High scrapped lesson plans to allow upset students to spend time with counselors and one another as they grappled with the loss.
The killing was one more blow for a campus that in the last couple of years has struggled with racial tension between Latinos and blacks. In April 2005, a racially motivated riot broke out on campus. Just weeks ago, vandals spray-painted the walls of several buildings with racial epithets.
There is no evidence that Lopez’s death was linked to those problems. But to one mother, the off-campus killing was a sign that the school, the community and the police needed to work harder to address the broader issues of violence in the Pico area, a known hub of gang activity, and racial tension at the school.
“Santa Monica is the land of yoga mats, dog-walking and the Green Party,” said Crystal Quine, whose son Jake played football with Lopez. “They need to wake up. This is a real problem that needs to be addressed.... It’s really upsetting.”
Though Santa Monica is regarded as wealthier and safer than parts of Los Angeles, city leaders said, rough pockets remain, particularly in the area south of Pico Boulevard.
Councilman Richard Bloom said the community was grief-stricken about yet another gang-related killing, atop at least three others in recent years.
“It’s so depressing to all of us, because it seems such a senseless yet intractable problem,” said Bloom, who has a 16-year-old son at Santa Monica High. “We’ve tried to come together as a community and seek new ways to intervene in positive ways in young people’s lives. The reality is that, like many of the other issues we have in Southern California, it’s a regional issue.”
He said that many of the problems appeared to stem from gangs coming from outside the city “and attacking folks who live here.”
Bloom said he learned of the slaying in an e-mail as he was participating in the City Council meeting Tuesday night. He shared the news with P. Lamont Ewell, who recently became city manager.
“This is one of the early things he needs to face here,” Bloom said.
In a letter sent home with students, Principal Ilene Straus described the killing “as a tragedy for our community.”
“We must all work together to support each other through this difficult time,” she said, adding that additional counselors and psychologists would be on campus throughout the week and “beyond as needed.” She also said the school would hold a memorial service in its Greek Theater at 3 p.m. today.
On Wednesday, hundreds of students signed a makeshift memorial that was moved from the cafeteria to the library. It featured Lopez’s yearbook photo, which revealed a young man with a straight-ahead gaze and a buzz cut.
Several students, some with eyes puffy from crying, lingered on campus after the final bell, reminiscing about the popular boy.
Many said the only plausible explanation was that the shooting must have been a case of tragically mistaken identity.
“He was the class clown and was nice to everybody,” said Susan Santos, a classmate who had known the 10th-grader since they attended Grant Elementary School. “There wasn’t one day when he wouldn’t smile.”
Greg Alonge, 15, a pitcher on the baseball team who had known Lopez a couple of months, described him as “one of the nicest kids on the team.”
Under a bright-blue sky Wednesday afternoon, the baseball team huddled with its coach, who called off practice in honor of Lopez.
Alonge said he and his teammates planned to order special jerseys with black bands on one sleeve and a patch with Lopez’s name and number, 11, for their baseball caps.
Nahal Zarnighian, another student, said she had only recently met Lopez. She said a Spanish teacher who had taught Lopez “was bawling” in class and telling students about how Lopez’s mother, from Mexico, worked two jobs, including one at Rite-Aid, to ensure that Lopez and his siblings would have a good future.
Lt. Frank Fabrega, a spokesman for the Santa Monica Police Department, said detectives had not yet established a motive for the shooting.
He asked anyone with additional information about the case to call (310) 458-8451 or (310) 458-8426.
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