Just before noon on Sunday, Oct. 4, Sandra Trujillo tried to make sense of something that never has any logic for a parent — the loss of a son.
Her eldest, Victor Trujillo, was shot to death in the late afternoon of Oct. 1. It happened around 6:12 p.m., just around the corner from his house on the 13200 block of Del Sur Street in Pacoima, according to the Los Angeles Police Department.
A makeshift altar with balloons, candles and flowers now marks the crime scene.
“I still can’t believe it,” she said, as relatives and neighbors brought food into the home’s front yard for a kermes to raise funds to bury her son. A GoFundMe (https://www.gofundme.com/f/in-loving-memory-lil-vic) account has also been set up to help with funerary costs.
“I just stand by the door waiting for him to come home, but he’s not here,” she said. “At 3 a.m., I wake up and I’m thinking he’s going to show up and he doesn’t.”
She described Trujillo as a young man who loved to skate, friendly to everyone and a leader among his friends. The young man who had recently finished independent studies at a local school also loved to compose songs and shoot off fireworks.
Every October, the family sets up a Halloween display in their front yard, just a few feet from Vaughn Next Century Learning Center on Vaughn Street, that attracts the admiration and creates wonder among the children who pass by.
The display was quickly removed last week after the tragedy, replaced instead by tables and chairs for people to eat the food sold at the Sunday kermes, flanked by a collage of photos showing Trujillo through the years.
According to the LAPD, Foothill Area Patrol officers received a radio call of an “assault with a deadly weapon shooting, man down” on Oct. 1. Upon arrival, they found Trujillo lying on the sidewalk. He was unconscious, not breathing and had a gunshot wound to the upper torso. He was declared dead at the scene.
Police said detectives canvassed the area, but there were no witnesses that observed the shooting. No arrests have been reported and no suspect description has been released.
Trujillo was looking for work and getting ready for the next chapter in his life.
“I don’t know somebody who didn’t like him. He had a lot of friends. Everywhere we went, they knew him. He had a good attitude, always friendly,” said the mother, who can’t fathom why her son would be attacked in such a fashion.
Neither can a neighbor, who only identified himself as Pedro, and who had talked to Trujillo just 10 minutes before he left his house prior to the shooting.
“He had a different attitude. He wanted to help his parents,” Pedro said.
“This is very sad. I have sons about his age and when they leave the house, you always worry about them. It’s something I can’t understand. It’s a tragedy for the family and all of us.”
Pedro also expressed concern about the recent rise in violence.
“I don’t know why this is happening. I just hope all this violence stops,” he said.
The Northeast Valley has not been exempt from this increasing violence. LAPD’s Mission station has recorded five homicides this year versus eight last year, but at the Foothill Division there have been six homicides through September 26 versus four in 2019.
Trujillo’s death is the third in less than a month recorded in the Northeast Valley.
The night of Sept. 24, a 31-year-old man only identified as “William” was shot and killed near the corner of Fenton Avenue and Maclay Street in Sylmar.
According to a neighbor, “the young man walked screaming for help” before collapsing a block away on Fenton Avenue and Hagar Street. A few flowers now mark the spot.
And around 5:30 a.m. on Sept. 13, two men only described as African American pulled up in a white sedan and asked 23-year-old Rony Jovel if he had any gang affiliations. When he replied “no,” one of the assailants shot Jovel with a handgun on the 12500 block of De Garmo Avenue in Pacoima.
Jovel was waiting for a ride alongside a friend when the shooting occurred. Police said neither Jovel nor his friend have any gang ties.
Jovel died three days later. A GoFundMe (https://www.gofundme.com/f/ronys-funeral-services) account was set up to help with his funeral costs.
At press time, Police had not yet made any arrests in either incident.
LAPD Chief Michel Moore has also sounded an alarm regarding increasing violence in South Los Angeles and other parts of the city. He said it could be related to the pandemic and the increased stress placed on community members.
“We are social animals,” Moore said. “We exist as an entity that works better when we work together. This pandemic is interrupting all of that. And it’s assisting — in my belief — fueling that, not just here in Los Angeles but across the country.”
“I’m looking to the City Council to continue to invest not only in this department, but in their intervention and prevention efforts,” Moore said. “We have a society, a community, right now that’s suffering … in that health crisis, and we’re seeing evidence in the street with violence.”
Moore further addressed the problem at a news conference in front of the Los Angeles Police Department’s Southeast Station on Oct. 2. He described it as “a spasm” of violence in recent weeks “with 39 additional homicides as a city versus last year; 101 additional shooting victims from a year ago.”
Through Sept. 26, the LAPD’s crime statistics have recorded 228 homicides this year versus 199 at the same time last year. Other violent crime data, including rapes and robberies, shows a decrease.
“This is a pace of shooting and violence that we’ve not seen in years, and it has grown from an effort that began (and) issues that we saw in June and July, and now has continued to accelerate,” the police chief said.
“And this week, I fear, given the velocity, is ‘Where is the lid on this? Where is the top?’ The violence just here in this area — year to date — 40 individuals less than 18 years of age have been shooting victims. Nine of them were under 10 years of age.
“This is violence that’s impacting not just people standing on a corner against other individuals standing on a corner,” Moore said. “This is violence that is hitting our very young and our very innocent.”
Anyone with information about the Victor Trujillo and Rony Jovel cases is urged to call the LAPD Valley Bureau at (818) 374-1925, or Crime Stoppers at (800) 222-8477.