Joseph Gatto shooting: Neighbor says he may have been targeted

SILVER LAKE, LOS ANGELES

Silver Lake residents says the Joseph Gatto may have been targeted by robbers in the area. His Silver Lake neighborhood had been hit recently.

Joseph Gatto, 78, was shot at his home on the 2800 block of Bright Lane Wednesday. A small memorial of flowers and a candle sits on the doorsteps. Autopsy results confirm the well-known former art teacher died from a gunshot wound to the abdomen.

"It's just completely shocking," said Gil Evans, Joseph's neighbor and friend. "I mean, what can you say? We've known Joe for 20 years. He's the sweetest, nicest, kindest man, great neighbor."

Friday afternoon neighbors were still reeling from the news of the murder, trying to make sense of what happened. Longtime neighbor Evans says police told him this was not a random crime.

"He was going to give a talk about Russian religious icons in Glendale and that's apparently what was stolen," said Evans. "The police were saying they thought it was targeted, that it was planned."

Evans says he was home Wednesday night when Gatto's daughter found her father's body slumped over his desk. According to Evans, the family wonders if Gatto knew his killer.

"That's what the kids are speculating," said Evans. "There's no sign, that anybody knows, of forced entry. They don't know why he would be sitting at his desk. That was odd. The whole thing doesn't make any sense."

And there's more speculation among neighbors that Gatto's death may be connected to a recent rash of car break-ins, specifically to an incident that neighbors say happened Tuesday, a full day before Gatto's body was found. A neighbor confronted a man who brandished a gun and threatened to kill them.

Addressing the media Thursday, Assemblyman Mike Gatto urged the public to talk to police if they have any information.

"There are thousands of joggers around this reservoir every day, all the time. If people just saw somebody that didn't seem right, they saw someone skidding out, anything at all, just to come forward and let us know, because right now it would really help us catch the persons," Mike Gatto said Thursday.

The LAPD could not confirm any details Friday.

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