Still-distraught family members and sheriff’s investigators are pleading for the public’s help in trying to identify the killer of a 21-year-old college football player who was gunned down in East Los Angeles nearly 2 1/2 years ago.
A $20,000 reward was being offered for information leading to the arrest and conviction of suspects in the killing of Gabriel Soto of Monterey Park.
Soto was one of two men shot around 2:50 a.m. on May 25, 2013 at 601 S. McDonnell Ave., about two blocks north of Whittier Boulevard, according to the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.
The 2009 Garfield High School graduate was struck in the chest and died at a hospital. The other victim was shot in a leg, treated at a hospital and released.
Soto, who played defensive back on scholarship at Lincoln University in Jefferson City, Mo., was at a party with former high school football teammates inside an open garage when a suspect opened a gate and opened fire.
Soto was in California to visit his family, according to the sheriff’s department.
Sheriff Jim McDonnell, homicide bureau detectives and Soto’s family members pleaded at a news conference in downtown Los Angeles this afternoon for someone to come forward with information.
“He is truly missed and he is truly loved and this crime should not go unpunished,” Soto’s sister Vanessa Soto said. “I’m begging for someone to come forward and give us some information.”
Said Lt. Steve Jauch of the Sheriff’s Homicide Bureau: “You have a young man doing the right thing, bettering his life, going to college and his life is ended by a senseless act like this. We’re convinced somebody out there knows something.”
Investigators believe that although Soto was not a gang member and was likely not the shooter’s intended target, the killing may have been gang related.
“I am thankful for the work out detectives have invested in this case, and I hope that this reward will help them get one step closer to bringing Gabriel’s killer to justice and giving the Soto family the closure it needs,” said county Supervisor Hilda Solis, who helped secure the reward money approved by the Board of Supervisors.
The suspect was described at the time as a Latino male, about 5 feet, 7 inches tall and about 150 pounds with long dark hair, but his appearance may now be different.
“Those responsible must be held accountable for violently and chillingly ending a young, vibrant life packed with potential, and permanently impacting the life of another,” McDonnell said.
At an Aug. 14, 2013, memorial at Lincoln University, Blue Tigers defensive coordinator Damon Frenchers described Soto as “five-foot nothing, a hundred and nothing, but he was going to play for us this year, because he had that which you cannot measure: he had an undying heart and belief in himself and a willingness to work.
“It was my pleasure and my honor to coach him,” Frenchers said.
“He was going to play this year; somehow, I was going to get him out on the field. Because when you go to fight, you need fighters with you, and I would walk down any alley with him.”
Anyone with information on the identity or whereabouts of the killer was urged to call 911 or the Sheriff’s Homicide Bureau at (323) 890-5500. Anonymous tips can be supplied by calling Crime Stoppers at (800) 222-TIPS.
— City News Service