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LAPD arrests suspect in killing of 4-year-old boy [UPDATED]

January 16, 2009 |  3:43 am

Boy

Updated, 5:52 a.m.: Los Angeles police identified Howard Astorga, 25, as the man arrested on suspicion of fatally shooting Roberto Lopez Jr. Astorga is being held in lieu of $1 million bail and is on parole from state prison after being released in June. Police say he is a gang member whose past crimes include gun and narcotics possession. Police did not release the name of Astorga’s gang, saying gangs commit such crimes to gain notoriety.

Los Angeles police detectives said they have made an arrest in the fatal shooting of a 4-year-old that took place this week south of Echo Park.

Roberto Lopez Jr. was walking with his sister from his home to a local community center when he was hit in the chest by a single gunshot. LAPD officials planned to release the identity of the suspect at an early-morning news conference at Rampart Division.

Investigators say at least one person on foot opened fire Tuesday afternoon on a red car driving south in the 1200 block of Court Street in what was believed to be a gang-related case.

The shooting shook up the gentrifying hillside neighborhood where, two years ago, a 9-year-old girl was killed by gang crossfire as she stood in the kitchen of her home. The boy's parents, Roberto Lopez and Araceli Gonzalez Lopez, pleaded with the public to help find their son's killer.

The large, close-knit Lopez family has become well-known in the neighborhood since moving to West Court Street from East L.A. four years ago. They are three generations living side by side in two duplexes: Roberto Jr.'s grandfather Serafin Gonzalez and his wife, their three grown children, their spouses and more than half a dozen grandchildren.

The LAPD has been aggressively working the case. "We're throwing everything we have at this investigation," LAPD Assistant Chief Earl Paysinger said earlier this week.

Also today, police will also announce establishment of a Roberto Lopez Jr. fund for anyone wishing to make donations to the family. The account is being managed by Wells Fargo Bank. Those with questions can contact the office of Los Angeles City Councilman Ed Reyes at (213) 485-0763.

Updated, 5:52 a.m.: Los Angeles police identified Howard Astorga, 25, as the man arrested on suspicion of fatally shooting Roberto Lopez Jr. Astorga is being held in lieu of $1 million bail and is on parole from state prison after being released in June. Police say he is a gang member whose past crimes include gun and narcotics possession. Police did not release the name of Astorga’s gang, saying gangs commit such crimes to gain notoriety.

-- Andrew Blankstein

Photo credit: Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times

Earlier coverage
-- Photo gallery of a community in mourning
-- Stunned family mourns child
-- Slain boy was walking with sister

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