Makeshift altar for Anthony Espinoza from GoFundMe Account.

The Alligator Laundromat, located at the corner of Maclay Avenue and Glenoaks Boulevard in San Fernando, is open 24 hours for those wanting to get their laundry done at any time of the day or night.

Several people were there at around 1:45 a.m. on Nov. 20 when shots rang out, shattering the glass back door of the business and customers’ nerves.

After the confusion cleared, a 20-year-old man lay dead in the parking lot behind the building.

“(The victim) was still there when I came and there were several (bullet) casings on the ground,” said a laundromat employee, who arrived there at 5 a.m. that day.

The victim was identified as Anthony Espinoza of San Fernando. Comments on the San Fernando Sun/El Sol, Facebook page indicated Espinoza graduated from Discovery Prep Charter School in Sylmar.

“He was a friend of my daughter. Graduated from discovery prep a few years back. Said he was riding his bike home but not sure what led to this,” wrote Samuel Jesus.

The laundromat employee told the San Fernando Valley Sun/El Sol that Espinoza was part of a group of four young men who were chased and shot at by an attacker for reasons still unclear.

Friends and relatives set up candles and flowers in an alley at the edge of the laundromat parking lot. “R.I.P. Anthony” and “R.I.P. Blazer” were scrawled next to the makeshift altar.

At press time, investigators were still searching for a suspect.

Possible Altercation Outside The Laundromat

Lt. Derrick Alfred of Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department told the media that deputies believe there was an altercation between Espinoza and the gunman outside the laundromat.

The victim was likely shot when he entered the laundromat in an attempt to flee the gunman, Alfred said.

The Sheriff’s Department described the shooting as gang-related.

San Fernando Police Chief Anthony Vairo, whose department detectives are conducting a joint investigation with the sheriff’s detectives, told the San Fernando Valley Sun/El Sol newspaper, “the victim was with his brother and other people around the laundromat. There was a confrontation between the victim and the suspect in an alley in the back. The victim was shot when he tried to run back inside the laundromat.”

“What the confrontation was about, we still don’t know,” Vairo said, noting there were a few witnesses inside the laundromat at the time. Some were cooperative and others who were not.

“It’s a difficult case, but we’re trying to work it out,” Vario said.

He added that the investigation so far leads them to believe there is only one suspect. “But there could be more, we don’t know. We’re looking at all different angles.”

Vairo also said that to their knowledge, “the victim doesn’t appear to have any gang affiliation at all.”

The police chief said investigators are reviewing surveillance video recorded inside and outside the building for clues on what happened and who the suspect may be.

Family members have

expressed their grief on a GoFundMe ( account created in Espinoza’s honor.

“Thank you for sharing your smile with this world. Gone from our sight but never from out hearts. Your spirits (sic) will forever surround us. We love you cousin,” wrote Lisette, Nino, and Kaiden Espinoza.

Spate Of Shootings

Espinoza’s death is the fourth shooting reported in San Fernando this year.

On April 19, three men were wounded at approximately 5:05 p.m., following a drive-by shooting in the 700 block of Hollister Street. Reports indicated a vehicle occupied by three suspects opened fire on the victims before fleeing.

In another case, on May 28 at around 6:45 p.m., authorities responded to reports of a shooting at an apartment complex in the 600 block of Glenoaks Boulevard. When police arrived at the site, they learned two people had been struck by gunfire. Both victims, a man and a woman, have apparently recovered.

Two suspects are still being sought in connection with a shooting reported on June 3, at about 10:40 p.m., in the 1600 block of San Fernando Road. Investigators said three suspects got into an argument with a customer in a liquor store then left and got into a car. Shortly thereafter, two of the suspects exited and fired several shots at the victim, who was not struck.

Vairo said COVID-19 and unemployment have contributed “to an uptick” in crimes.

“Our violent crimes prior to this year have been relatively low. This year it jumped back up and that’s because of a bunch of different contributing factors, the economy, the decriminalization of different crimes,” Vario said, also including increased drug use, people struggling with mental illnesses and homelessness as factors.

Homicides Up in Los Angeles

Espinoza’s death is also part of a rising homicide wave impacting the Los Angeles area as a whole. The LAPD has recorded over 300 homicides this year in the city so far, a number not seen since 2009.

In an effort to stem the rising number of homicides, the department is urging the public to report any useful information to Crime Stoppers, a safe and anonymous way to report a crime.

“A number we have not seen in over a decade — 300 homicides in a year. Senseless violence & tragic loss of life,” the LAPD tweeted on Sunday. “Our people are doing everything they can to stop the violence, but we need your help. If you have any info, report it. You can remain anonymous.”

If an arrest and conviction is made in connection with the crime, the reporting party may be able to collect a cash reward.

“I am HEARTBROKEN!!” LAPD Deputy Chief Emada Tingirides tweeted. “It’s been a tragic weekend in Los Angeles to include the murder of a 17-year-old riding his motorcycle close to his home. A Weekend like this creates Lasting Trauma in Communities. Praying for South Los Angeles. #WeMustComeTogether.”

The latest homicides include 36-year-old Armando Gonzalez, Jr., who was fatally shot while sitting in a pickup truck in an alley near the intersection of Van Nuys Boulevard and El Dorado Avenue at about 4 a.m. on Nov. 17.

On Monday Nov. 23, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti blamed the high number of homicides on “more guns, more ammunition that lead to shootings and more frustration.”

“There’s just not enough things for people to do,” Garcetti said, adding that many have lost jobs and there are no after-school and park activities to keep people engaged.

Garcetti acknowledged that while crime overall is down by more than 30%, homicides are up 26% this year.

He also said LAPD has “taken more guns off the street in the last two months than previously” and that he was sending safety ambassadors — former gang members — who “step in front of the guns and stop the killings.”

“That will help us bring some of this increase down,” Garcetti said.

Anyone with information about the Anthony Espinoza’s death is urged to call the Sheriff’s Homicide Bureau at (323) 890-5500, or Crime Stoppers at (800) 222-TIPS.