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Truckers mourn homeless friend who cared for stray dogs

April 21, 2009 |  4:13 pm

Me4_kih1aknc The homeless man called the asphalt-covered truck yard in Commerce home, and the truckers treated not only him but his faithful dogs like family.

The truckers would buy tacos at the lunch truck for the man and his dogs. He would polish the tires and wheels of big rigs, and a couple of times, truckers would even take him on hauls to Arizona and beyond. They marveled at the affection he showed his two dogs, bathing them with a water hose a security guard let him use and grieving when one of his pets was killed by a car.

The security guard grew to consider the homeless man a friend, and bought him an old van so he wouldn’t have to sleep outside.

But in the early morning hours Tuesday, someone shot the man four times in the head. His remaining dog, named Spike, seemed to keep vigil over his body as emergency crews arrived. Now, the trucker community in this industrial town is in mourning. The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department is investigating, but detectives said they have no suspects or a motive.

“He loved those dogs. I’d tell him let’s go eat and we’d go to the lunch truck and he would say, ‘I want this and my dogs want this,’” recalled trucker Mario Solis, 34, who let the man sleep in his green and white Peterbilt big rig on weekends. A Mexican immigrant, the homeless man was known only by his nicknames. Some people knew him as Chilango, slang for someone from Mexico City.

Others called him Chuy. He was loud and humorously profane, they said, but almost always good natured. He doted on his dogs, Spike and a smaller dog he called Chaparra, Spanish for short.

Truckers said he used to own a video store on nearby Olympic Boulevard years ago before it went bust.

They said he had a license to drive a big rigs and had an affinity for the trucking community. The truckers in turn took such good care of him that some people in the surrounding neighborhood said the man did not fit their stereotype of a bedraggled homeless man.

Truck driver Jorge Lopez, 25, stands near the site where a trucker found a homeless man shot to death on Indiana Street near Contessa Drive in the city of Commerce.  Photo: Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times