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Funeral held for boy killed in Echo Park

January 23, 2009 12:00:00 AM PST
Hundreds of relatives, friends, and neighborhood residents gathered at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels Friday morning to mourn a 4-year-old boy killed by a stray bullet in Echo Park.Cardinal Roger Mahony presided over the funeral Mass in downtown Los Angeles. Several mourners wore t-shirts with a photo honoring Roberto Lopez Jr., who police say was a victim of gang violence.

Roberto was walking with his 5-year-old sister in their neighborhood near Angelino Heights on Jan. 13 when he was shot and killed. Police say they were headed to a community center a couple of doors down from their home when he was hit in the chest by a stray bullet.

Roberto was transported in critical condition to Children's Hospital Los Angeles, where he was pronounced dead.

Investigators believe some gang members got into an argument with the driver of a passing car and opened fire. One of the stray bullets struck Roberto in the chest.

Two days after the killing, police arrested 25-year-old Howard Astorga of Los Angeles, an alleged gang member who police say was released on parole in June. Astorga had an extensive criminal history, according to police, and had served prison time for assault with firearms, burglary, grand theft auto, narcotics violations and other offenses. He had first been arrested at the age of 10.

Astorga does not live in the neighborhood, but he has reportedly admitted to being in the area at the time of the shooting.

If convicted of the 4-year-old's murder, Astorga could face 53 years to life in prison.

Relatives say the boy's parents are having a very difficult time dealing with the loss. They say Astorga took the life of a sweet little boy.

"He was funny, he liked to dance a lot, he liked to play video games a lot," said Armando Gonzalez, the boy's uncle.

"It's beautiful, and it's wonderful to see everyone come out and support the family and everyone," said Nora Noriega, a relative of the Roberto. "[It's] just so devastating. And neighbors and just, you know, the neighborhood, and everyone around the city... just a lot of support."

The family of Roberto is hoping for more security in the neighborhood so something like this doesn't happen to another family.

The Roberto Lopez Jr. Memorial Fund was established to assist the Lopez family. Those wishing to make donations can go to any Wells Fargo branch and submit a check, money order or cash. Donors who are Wells Fargo customers may transfer funds directly.


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