SILVER LAKE (CBSLA.com) — Family, neighbors and friends spent much of Friday dropping flowers, candles and cards in front of Joseph Gatto’s Silver Lake home.
CBS2’s Suraya Fadel reported a steady stream of loved ones came by Bright Lane to express their grief and to mourn Gatto’s loss.
Officials believe the 78-year-old Gatto was shot and killed during the commission of a home invasion robbery sometime Wednesday evening.
He was shot once, in the abdomen, with a small-caliber gun, believed to be a .22.
Gatto, an artist and former teacher, was the father of Assemblyman Mike Gatto (D-Los Angeles.)
The victim’s daughter found him slumped over a desk in a room at the back of the house. Authorities said the home was ransacked.
It’s still not known how the suspect broke in — officials said there was no obvious sign of forced entry.
“He was such a wonderful guy. It’s just so incredibly insane and tragic,” said Gil Evans, a Gatto neighbor for 20 years. “So sad, so senseless.”
Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck told reporters that finding the killer is a top priority for the department.
Investigators are also looking at other recent break-ins looking for a connection. Neighbors say there was a break-in just two streets away on Tuesday evening.
Officials told Fadel that Silver Lake has had a high rate of car burglaries within the last two years and a rash of residential burglaries, but homicide is quite rare. The Gatto slaying was the first in that quiet, family-friendly community in 2013.
“I was stunned. I was speechless. I could not believe the news,” said Stephen Lampson Sarinaera. He and Gatto were both teachers at Abraham Lincoln High School in the 1980s; Gatto’s classroom was next door.
“He was just a role model,” Sarinaera continued. “He was a great mentor. He took the art of teaching to a whole other level.”