latest news A man was killed trying to raise money for his daughter’s birthday
Juan López left Nicaragua for the United States last year in hopes of escaping the violence in the Central American country.
But his life ended tragically on the streets of Los Angeles, shot dead while working to earn money so his daughter back in her home country could celebrate her ninth birthday.
On the day of his death, López, 39, was in good spirits because he had been offered a “Trabajitoa little paint job of an ice cream shop with other men.
Life had not been easy in Los Angeles. He had struggled to find work as a painter and lived with his sister in a small apartment in Northridge, sleeping on a cot in her living room. She missed her three children – Brittany, 9; John, 12 years old; and Edward, 13 – whom he left behind in Matagalpa, Nicaragua.
His daughter Brittany’s ninth birthday was April 15 – the day of the paint job – and he was eager to send money to Nicaragua.
“He was so happy because he was going to earn this money to send his daughter to buy the cake,” said Ruth López Suarez, sister of Juan López.
He woke up at 7 a.m., shaved, showered, made his bed, left, and she never saw him again.
Around noon, López was shot outside the Parthenia Street ice cream shop in Northridge while painting gang graffiti, police said. The suspected shooter had seen López and other workers cover graffiti he and his team had daubed on the wall earlier in the day and was so offended that he shot the men, killing López, he said. confessed to the police.
López – who had been in the United States for six months and in Los Angeles for just three – had been caught in disputed gang territory, unwittingly risking his life for meager pay and a day’s work, according to police and his sister.
Between January 1 and May 13, 98 people were killed in Los Angeles, a sharp drop from last year’s rates, according to statistics from the Los Angeles Police Department. During the same period last year, 135 people were killed, according to statistics.
It was not the first time that López had encountered violence. He was kidnapped and held for ransom in Mexico by a smuggler, although he eventually escaped.
He had come to America, seeking safety, his sister said.
The family was involved in local politics in Nicaragua. They worked on elections and participated in marches and protests against President Daniel Ortega’s iron rule.
“When you oppose the government in Nicaragua, you risk being arrested or disappearing. He wanted to avoid that. That’s why he left,” his sister said. “Now that we’ve lost my brother, we see the truth that we didn’t realize before. In my home country you don’t see those things where someone randomly comes and kills you. … You have to have a problem with someone for that to happen. … Here they kill you because they want to, or because they confuse you with someone, or simply because you work, and they kill you.
After the shooting, it took Ruth López days to figure out what had happened to her.
López did not return home the morning after he left to paint the ice cream shop, so his sister went to fetch him. She went to the places he usually looked for work – like the Mormon Church down the street.
Eventually, she found a man who had worked with her brother in the past.
“I showed him a picture of my brother and he said, ‘Your brother is dead. … They killed him yesterday.’”
But police mistakenly reported it was a slain 60-year-old woman, giving her false hope that her brother may still be alive.
Even after the man told López that her brother was dead, she still hasn’t found his body. He was not in the hospital and the police had no information about her. It wasn’t until the dead man’s fingerprints were matched against López’s in the Immigration and Customs Enforcement database that she knew for sure he was gone. Her brother had applied for political asylum and was awaiting his first official hearing.
Now López hopes to send her brother’s body back to Nicaragua for burial, which she cannot afford. It costs $12,800, she said, and she’s fundraising on GoFundMe to cover the expenses. She has raised just over $5,000 so far.
“My family wants to see it, his children want to see it. It’s the least I can do for him now,” she said.
For Ruth López, it is still hard to believe that she will never see her brother again. She left her bed in the living room of her apartment, her bed made — he did it every morning. It’s ready for him if he comes back.
“I think I will see him again. I feel like that’s a lie. I will see him again,” she said.