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Candles for the fallen

The Rev. Howard Dotson leads a candlelight vigil for Moses Salinas, a 23-year-old who was gunned down in Angelino Heights in November. Dotson is part of the police-sponsored Rampart Clergy Council, which pledges to hold a prayerful service for each homicide victim in the Rampart Division. There have been 11 vigils in the last three months. (Michael Robinson Chavez / Los Angeles Times)
Jose Romero, 3, foreground, was part of the small crowd that gathered at the site with Dotson. Others included Maria Alcaras, 13, from left, Esmerelda Alcaras, 11, and Berta Rodriguez. Most gatherings rarely grow to more than two dozen mourners. (Michael Robinson Chavez / Los Angeles Times)
“You need a ritual to keep yourself from being jaded,” Dotson says of his push to make sure the people who were killed on some of L.A.'s most violent streets get their proper due. “You can’t see the candles and not stop and ask what happened.” (Michael Robinson Chavez / Los Angeles Times)
Maria and Esmerelda Alcaras join their mother Berta Rodriguez at a recent vigil. Such gatherings usually begin with a short speech by Dotson followed by prayer and readings from the Bible. Then candles are lighted and songs are sung. Often, relatives and friends are asked to talk about the victim. (Michael Robinson Chavez / Los Angeles Times)
Dotson is a minister at First Congregational Church of Los Angeles. The recent murder of an infant in a crowded shopping area moved him to ensure that such innocent victims are not forgotten. (Michael Robinson Chavez / Los Angeles Times)
With cars speeding by on Alvarado Street, Dotson takes part in a candlelight vigil. He hands out fliers to upcoming services and has learned to speak rudimentary Spanish to communicate in the various Latino neighborhoods. (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
Community residents take part in a ceremony on Alvarado Street. For Dotson, there is no such thing as too many vigils. “Once you have one, how do you say, ‘Oh, now we can’t have one because it doesn’t fit our schedule’? We can’t do that,” he said. (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
Dotson and others place their hands on Jose Vasquez, whose mother was murdered, during a vigil near MacArthur Park. Afterward, Vasquez hugged and thanked the supporters. Dotson began the service with the words he always uses: “I hope this is the last one.” (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)