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A Lakewood mother continues to search for her son's killer

Denise Gatewood's Lakewood apartment is eerily quiet.

Gone are the sounds of her 17-year-old son playing video games in the living room. Now, all that remains are two large photographs of Emmanuel — a bulky football player — dressed in a red graduation gown, a half smile on his face.

Emmanuel Gatewood, known as "Mamo," never made it to his high school graduation ceremony. The photos were taken weeks before the senior was gunned down outside a pool party in Athens, an unincorporated neighborhood in South Los Angeles.

On Saturday, a year and two days after his death, Emmanuel's friends and family gathered where he had been shot to pass out 150 fliers, with the hopes that someone will come forward.

Despite witnesses to the walk-up shooting, investigators have struggled to find fresh leads in the case.

"We've got nothing on this," said Det. David Gunner with the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department. "That's the sad part."

Many of the partygoers that night were football players who weren't involved in gangs or crime, Gunner said. The street where Emmanuel was shot — the 1400 block of West 123rd Street — is a quiet neighborhood with one- and two-story homes and trimmed front lawns. But the surrounding outer area enters into gang territory, and has one of the highest rates of violent crime in L.A. County, according to a Times crime database, which draws upon Sheriff's Department and LAPD data.

The night before the party, Emmanuel asked his mother's permission to attend. He didn't go out much, at least not without his two older sisters. He preferred to stay home and play video games.

Denise peppered him with questions. Who would be there? Where, exactly, was the party? She'd think about it.

"I had a feeling — something inside of me just didn't feel like it was a good idea," she said.

But lately Emmanuel had kept his grades up. He had dreams of playing college football and becoming a probation officer. He was almost 18, and Denise felt overprotective. She said yes.

His sister, Erinn, drove him to the party, being held for a friend's 17th birthday, at about 3 p.m. on July 10, 2012. More than 50 people were there, eating tacos and hanging out.

"He was bored because he didn't want to get into the pool," said Jeremy Britton, who was with Emmanuel that night.

The party ended around 10:30 p.m. and teenagers spilled out onto the sidewalk, waiting for rides. That's when a gunman walked up to Gatewood, shot him, then fled on foot, Gunner said.

Erinn was already on her way to pick up her brother when she received a phone call from her younger sister, Erianna. Erinn ran a red light and parked as close as she could to the scene, blocked off with yellow police tape. She couldn't breathe.

From a distance she watched paramedics work on her brother, then take him to the hospital in an ambulance.

He died the next day. His organs were donated to several people, including a cousin, who had been waiting years for a kidney.

Britton said he thinks about the shooting every day and says good night to Emmanuel on Twitter each night.

"Why would someone do that out of nowhere?" he said Saturday at the vigil before passing out fliers.

Denise was a few doors down, knocking on doors.

"Can I put this on Facebook?" asked one woman, a concerned look on her face. Denise said yes.

The flier had a photo of Emmanuel smiling in a dark suit and a teal bow tie. It stated that the L.A. County Board of Supervisors is offering a $10,000 reward.

Denise said she hasn't given up hope that Emmanuel's killer will be caught. Almost daily, she finds solace in posting on a memorial page dedicated to her son on Facebook.

"I know somebody knows who did it," she said. "Whoever it is, they're going to be caught."

Anyone with information about the shooting can contact Gunner at (323) 890-5500.

nicole.santacruz@latimes.com

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