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Slain high school soccer player looked 'scared,' sister says

January 12, 2012 | 11:25 am
Jessica Rodriguez

The killing of a 17-year-old high school student Wednesday started with a knock at his front door. A girl with red hair had come calling.

Francisco Rodriguez Jr. talked to her briefly in the doorway, out of earshot of his mother and older sister. Turning back into the house for a moment, he explained to them that he would be outside.

He seemed afraid, his sister Jessica Rodriguez said Thursday morning, explaining the sequence of events to a small group of reporters.

“He gave me a look, a scared look, like he knew something was going to happen.”

Then he walked into the frontyard. Moments later, his sister said, she heard three gunshots. The next thing she remembered seeing was her brother lying motionless, face-down on the ground.

A dark-colored SUV drove away. Word quickly spread among his classmates at El Camino Real High School. Grief counselors were on hand as they arrived at school Thursday morning. Friends said they couldn’t understand what may have provoked the killing.

They described Rodriguez, a senior who played goalie on the soccer team, as popular, flirtatious and prone to goofing around in class.

“He set out to make people laugh,” said Julien Biwer, 17, who was in his English class.

“I really looked up to him,” said Spencer Smith, 16, a soccer teammate. “He was a mentor to me.”

The principal, Dave Fehte, said the school was cooperating with LAPD detectives but that he felt confident the killer — whoever it was — was not a classmate.

“Francisco had a lot of friends outside of school,” Fehte said, “and we know the people who know him here.”

Detectives have not identified a motive or suspects, or determined how many people were involved or how many shots were fired, said Sara Faden, an LAPD officer. Police arrived at the house, in the 6900 block of Cozycroft Avenue, shortly after 6:10 p.m. Wednesday.

Rodriguez was later pronounced dead at a nearby hospital. Just an hour earlier, he had finished playing a soccer game, recording four saves against Taft High School. The final score was 0-0.

One teammate, 14-year-old Victor Gonzalez, described his friend as “fearless” on the field.

“I wanted to be just like him,” he said. “A bunch of people did.”


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-- Matt Stevens in Woodland Hills and Alan Zarembo

Photo: Jessica Rodriguez, sister of slain El Camino HIgh School soccer player Francisco Rodriguez. Credit: Al Seib / Los Angeles Times