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Dispatch: "To the date, to the date"

July 11, 2009 | 12:16 am

Dennis Joe Rodgers Jr. never met his dad.

Months before he was born, his father was shot to death outside the Imperial Courts Housing Project in South Los Angeles.

On Wednesday night, Rodgers, a 19-year old black man, was shot and killed in the driveway of his Exposition Park home. It was the 20th anniversary of his father's homicide, his family said.

Police said three Latino men had driven to Rodgers' home near Normandie Avenue and 37th Street, where the killer got out of the car and shot Rodgers once in the chest.

Rodgers staggered to the front porch, where he collapsed, family members said.

They said Rodgers had been leaning against a silver car when he was attacked.

Rodgers was taken to California Hospital Medical Center in downtown Los Angeles, where he was pronounced dead, police said.

On Thursday night, Rodgers' 25-year-old cousin, Pearl White, sat in the driveway and stared at the items that had been placed nearby in Rodgers' memory -- a navy blue baseball cap, sympathy notes and votive candles. Inches away were the bloodstains from the previous night.

Rodgersroses  "This is unbelievable," White said. "Somebody has to come forward."

Family members said they were devastated by the shooting and shocked that Rodgers' death came on the anniversary of his father's killing.

Standing a few feet away, Rodgers' great-aunt, Marilyn Loftin, 43, shook her head.

"To the date, to the date," Loftin repeated.

White said her cousin was the oldest of four children.

"He had two little sisters and a brother," Rodgers' mother, Sylvia, said before relatives escorted her away after she broke down in tears.

Family members said Rodgers, who had been searching for a job, had been contemplating moving to Las Vegas after an uncle who lived there offered him a job at a Home Depot.

"He was a loving child," Loftin said. "He was a happy child."

Police said the shooting does not appear to be gang-related.

-- Ruben Vives

Top photo: Pearl White sits near a vigil for her cousin, Dennis Joe Rodgers, Jr. who was shot and killed Wednesday night. Bottom photo: Candle and flowers left near the site where Rodger's was shot. Credit: Ruben Vives/Los Angeles Times