Police explore possible tie between Gatto slaying, earlier incidents


Los Angeles police are investigating whether the fatal shooting of artist Joseph Gatto, the father of a state assemblyman, is tied to an assault in Silver Lake earlier in the week.

Joseph Gatto’s daughter found him at his Silver Lake home Wednesday evening, slumped over a desk with a fatal gunshot wound to the abdomen.

LAPD Deputy Chief Kirk Albanese said detectives had “no information whatsoever” that Gatto’s death “has anything to do with his son’s politics.” Assemblyman Mike Gatto (D-Los Angeles) represents a district that includes Silver Lake, where the family has lived for years.


Albanese said police were investigating “a number of different avenues,” including whether the slaying was linked to an aggravated assault and a vehicle break-in reported Tuesday night not far from Gatto’s home.

“We’re obviously looking at it,” Albanese said.

He declined to release any details about the investigation.

In an email widely circulated among Silver Lake residents, a woman warned her neighbors to be on the lookout for suspicious prowlers. She said she saw on Tuesday night a man crouched next to a car with glass on the ground.

The woman yelled at the man while another resident chased him.

“The suspect had his back to me and then after a few steps turned around and aimed a gun at the car,” wrote the woman, who asked not to be identified and declined to talk about the incident to The Times.

“Do you want to die tonight?” the man shouted, according to the woman’s email account.

“To hear the news of the senseless murder of Mr. Gatto made me sick to my stomach. I described the suspect as brazen and felt a twinge it was the same person,” she said in the email.

The woman told The Times on Friday that she was being interviewed by police.

Jesse Wiener, 26, said his car was broken into Tuesday evening, near Gatto’s home on Bright Lane.

Wiener said he didn’t witness the break-in or what happened afterward, but that a neighbor told him she’d tried to stop the suspicious person, who ultimately fled down a flight of stairs in the neighborhood. The woman told Wiener the man had brandished a gun.

They called police, Wiener said, and patrol officers took two reports — one for the break-in and another for the neighbor’s encounter with the man. Police returned the next day to dust Wiener’s car for fingerprints, he said.

Detectives were back in the neighborhood Thursday, Wiener said, this time canvassing after Gatto’s slaying. Wiener said he mentioned the Tuesday incident, which prompted police to reexamine his Honda Fit on Friday and again dust the car for prints.

Wiener said detectives gave no specific indication whether they believed the break-in was connected to Gatto’s slaying.

The chain of events is “disconcerting,” he said.

“It’s unsettling, absolutely,” he said. “But you know, you just have to keep your wits about you. Of course, I’ve been looking over my shoulder when I go home at night.”

Coroner’s officials performed an autopsy Friday and confirmed that Gatto died of a single gunshot wound to the abdomen. Authorities did not say when they believe Gatto was killed, and it is unclear when he was last seen.

Mike Gatto briefly spoke to reporters outside his father’s home Thursday night.

“I think a lot of people are still in a state of disbelief, including me,” Mike Gatto said. “There’s a number of different theories — I’ve seen some printed. None of them quite sound right to me, but I’ll leave that up to the pros.”

One of Joseph Gatto’s daughters, Marianna, head of the Italian American Museum of Los Angeles, said her father was “loved by all. He had no enemies.”

“We are a very close-knit family,” she said. “I just can’t imagine life without him.”

richard.winton@latimes.comTimes staff writer Steve Lopez contributed to this report.