Guardian Angel (Pacoima, California)

Services were held this week for Gloria Espinoza Tovar, one of three victims killed during a gunman’s five-day shooting spree that began in West Hollywood and ended in the Northeast Valley.

A rosary and funeral Mass was held for Tovar, 59, at Guardian Angel Church in Pacoima followed by funeral services at the San Fernando Mission Cemetery. 

Tovar was killed on Aug. 24 in Pacoima. Police said that morning she was inside her tan Toyota Camry, on the 12900 block of Fillmore Street, waiting to pick up a fellow parishioner when a lone man in a SUV pulled up alongside her car and began shooting indiscriminately. She was killed instantly. 

Tovar,  a mother of three and grandmother of six, was a devoted parishioner at Guardian Angel for 15 years where she and her husband, Santiago served as Eucharist Ministers .

Father Steve Guitron, pastor, at Guardian Angel told The Tidings Catholic newspaper that Gloria [Tovar] served in several ministries and  together the couple both served as ushers.   She also  ministered to the sick and on the the morning of the shooting, Sunday, Aug 24,  she was picking up a fellow minister to the sick to attend the 7 a.m. Mass together.  As was part of her routine, she  had planned to take Communion to those who were homebound following the Mass, 

Tovar’s family told the San Fernando Valley Sun/El Sol that it was common for Tovar to give rides to Church to the elderly and others who needed help.

On the morning of the shooting, it was  like many Sundays for Tovar to stop on her way to church to provide a ride.  No one imagined that the barrel of a gun would be pointed at innocent lives.    

The shocking news  that Tovar and others had been shot and killed, traveled quickly. to Guardian Angel.  Father Guitron addressed the issue of violence in the surrounding community.

“In the Gospel Jesus asks the question, ‘Who do you say that I am?’” Father Guitron noted. “Gloria,[Tovar] in devoting her life to care for those who are in need and bringing the Eucharist to them every Sunday, was declaring who Jesus is.”

He also  noted in his remarks  to parishioners  that Tovar’s husband has been drawing on his faith following the murder of his wife. “To him, it’s a consolation to know the faith she had, to believe in the life and the resurrection… It makes me very proud as a pastor to know that my own people can draw on their faith at a time of such [tragedy].”

Father Guitron said he decided on some “specific passages for Gloria” for the memorial.

“I chose them because she had the hope of the glory of God,” he said. “She lived everyday prepared to be able to be with God.”

Father Guitron added the mood of the parishioners the last two Sundays were “a more somber spirit. There seemed to be a more attentive attitude toward our hope in God. It is a tragic event…they know the family, which made it all the more tragic.”

Fuentes. Garcetti Attend Mass

L.A. City Councilmember Felipe Fuentes, along with along L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti and police department representatives, attended a Mass held for Tovar last Sunday. 

“The community at Guardian Angel is a very tight community,” Fuentes said he attended the Mass to offer support.. “And there’s no way to explain this tragedy; all we can do is comfort one another and seek solace.

“There is nothing that would have prevented this serial killer from attacking, unfortunately. This…was a sick individual who killed random people and none of us know why.”   

The Northeast Valley Community

The community of San Fernando, Pacoima and Sylmar are considered at the heart of the Northeast San Fernando Valley, and those who call it home were shocked by the vicious serial shootings.  

Neighbors stood on street corners near the police tape trying to get information.  Parents kept their kids indoors worried that bullets were randomly flying on their neighborhood streets.   

Police worked quickly, and by evening announced that a suspect had been arrested. 

“I think they got the right guy because the shootings have stopped,” said a Sylmar resident who asked for anonymity.  “I’m surprised that we don’t yet know more about him, for those of us who live in the area we usually know someone who knows someone else” he said. But, we still don’t know a lot about this guy.” 

For those  from the Northeast San Fernando Valley, the areas of Sylmar, San Fernando and Pacoima make up a geographic triangle of  neighborhoods that are  interconnected with families that  have lived in the area for generations.   Immediately after the shooting, residents communicated via Facebook, expressing their outrage and tried to learn more about Hernandez.  Some placed photos of a person they thought could be the suspect, Alexander Hernandez, on Facebook walls.  Others posted about an ongoing “Meth problem in the community.”  

At an arraignment hearing at the San Fernando courthouse, the judge postponed the action until later this month in downtown Los Angeles.  He did not allow media to take a photo of the suspect “because of the status of the investigation.”

Hernandez, 34, has been charged with one count of capital murder and attempted murder, as well as three counts of animal cruelty for allegedly shooting three dogs, two counts of discharge of a firearm with gross negligence, one count each of shooting at an occupied vehicle, possession of a firearm by a felon, and possession of ammunition. Police said that when Hernandez was arrested, he possessed a pistol grip shotgun that was taken into evidence.

Police said a lone gunman is responsible for the people who were shot at, wounded or killed from West Hollywood to Pacoima over a five-day period beginning Aug. 20, and ending Aug. 24. On Aug. 24 they arrested Hernandez, of Sylmar.

He remains in custody in lieu of $1 million bail. 

He has not been charged with the three Northeast Valley killings. Investigators say more charges are pending, and the investigation continues. They have not released any new progress of said investigation.

The random killings were labeled by police as the actions of “a serial killer.”

Others killed on Aug. 24 include a 29-year-old unidentified man who was picking up bottles and cans at the Sylmar Recreational Center, and a 23-year-old woman, identified as Mariana Franco, who was in a vehicle with her family on the 1400 block of Celis Street in San Fernando before being gunned down.

“Gloria,[Tovar] in devoting her life to care for those who are in need and

bringing the Eucharist to them every Sunday, was declaring who Jesus is.” 

— Father Steve Guitron