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High school soccer player lured out of Winnetka home, killed

Francisco Rodriguez, a popular high school soccer player, was shot to death in front of his home in Winnetka on Jan. 11, 2012.
January 12, 2012 12:00:00 AM PST
A community is in shock on Thursday after a popular high school soccer player was lured out of his home in Winnetka and shot to death. Police, family and friends all say the teen was not involved in gangs, and there was no signal of any trouble in the young man's life.

Detectives have canvassed the area, searching for a person of interest described as a young woman with red hair.

Investigators said they have served one search warrant and are preparing several others as they zero in on a suspect.

Francisco Rodriguez, a goalie for El Camino Real High School's varsity boys soccer team, was gunned down outside his house on Wednesday night. He had helped his team tie Taft High School on their home field earlier in the day.

He went home after the game, and according to his sister, a girl came to the door just after 6 p.m. Rodriguez stepped outside and was shot several times.

"She has red hair, that's all I know," said the victim's sister Jessica Rodriguez. "He came inside and told my mom, 'I'm going to be outside.'"

Family members said Rodriguez's mother noticed something odd just then in his demeanor.

"She glanced to see his face, and he just looked scared," said Mary Salazar, the victim's cousin.

Paramedics rushed the 17-year-old to Northridge Hospital Medical Center, where he died of his injuries. A motive has not yet been determined.

"I don't even know who would want to do this. He was such a good kid. He would never get into trouble," said student Mark Anaya.

Friends say Rodriguez, whose nickname was Pancho, was a good student and a good athlete.

"We used to train over summer ... I really looked up to him. He was like a mentor, it's so sad," said student Spencer Smith, as he tried to hold back tears.

Investigators said the victim's mother reported seeing the suspect flee in a green SUV.

"This was not a random shooting," said LAPD Det. David Peteque. "This was definitely targeted toward a specific individual."

Neighbor Jesse Meza said he has known Rodriguez since he was little. He said he saw the boy he called "Panchito" on the ground bleeding.

"I didn't move him. I was talking to him. He moved his eyes. I thought he heard me. I told him, 'Just hold on, they'll be here right now,'" Meza said. "He couldn't say nothing."

There were tears and hugs outside Rodriguez's home Thursday night as close to 100 mourners gathered around a candlelight memorial.

"He's in a better place now, but it wasn't supposed to be him," Meza said. "It shouldn't have been him. Everybody here loves him dearly."

A soccer ball covered in tributes now marks the spot in his front yard where he was gunned down.

"It was just an emotional practice. We were just respecting Francisco Rodriguez, 'Pancho.' He was a leader on and off the field, motivated all of us to be a better person," said teammate Martin Ramos.

Anyone with information was asked to call the Los Angeles Police Department at (877) LAPD-24-7.


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