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7 years later, reward offered for information leading to gunman who killed sheriff's Explorer and friend in South Whittier

A young father and an aspiring deputy were gunned down seven years ago as they stood outside a party in South Whittier. Now investigators are hoping a $25,000 reward will help expose the people responsible for the drive-by shooting and bring them justice. 

Authorities believe the men were killed by gang members, even though neither of the victims were in a gang, Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Lt. John Corina said in a department news release on Aug. 14. Cesar Guadalupe Rodriguez, 19, had been an active member of the Norwalk Sheriff’s Station Explorer Program for four years and had just applied to become a deputy sheriff, his longtime goal, according to the release. 

His friend, Larry Villegas, 24, was a mechanic with a young son and a baby on the way — a daughter who was born after he and Rodriguez were shot down in the early morning of Sunday, Aug. 28, 2011, in the 11800 block of Painter Avenue. 

“We are asking for the public’s help,” said Los Angeles County Supervisor Janice Hahn, whose office sponsored the reward. ”Cesar and Larry’s family deserve answers, and the person who did this deserves to be behind bars.”

The night of the shooting, a compact car, possibly grey or silver, moved down the dark street where Rodriguez and Villegas were standing with several other people, according to the sheriff’s release. 

Witnesses reported seeing three people in the car, and believe the rear-seat passenger started shooting at the group, according to coroner’s records. 

The gunfire struck Rodriguez in the head and Villegas in the chest, according to Los Angeles County coroner’s records. Both men were pronounced dead at the scene at 3:28 a.m.

“This is an example of what we believe is gang activity, just a group of gang members driving around looking for rival gang members,” Corina said in the news release. “They see a group of young men hanging out and senselessly just shoot into the crowd, hoping to shoot somebody and feel good about themselves.”

Every year on the anniversary of the shooting, Rodriguez’s mother, Lupe,  has organized a memorial walk to honor the lives of her son and his friend and bring attention to the shooting in the hope of finding the killer. 

Another walk is scheduled this year on Aug. 28, the seventh anniversary of their death. 

“I will never stop,” Lupe Rodriguez said in the news release, speaking directly to the shooters. “There will be a walk every August 28th until we bring you to justice, because you have no right, absolutely no right to kill anyone, especially not our children.”

Anyone with information is asked to call the sheriff’s Homicide Bureau at (323) 890-5500. Those wishing to remain anonymous should call Crime Stoppers at (800) 222-8477.  

Photo: Los Angeles County Supervisor Janice Hahn is flanked by sheriff's investigators and family members on Aug. 14 as they announce a $25,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the gunman who killed Cesar Rodriguez, 19, and Larry Villegas, 24, on Aug. 28, 2011 in South Whittier.  Photo by Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department. 

Contact the Homicide Report. Follow @latimeshomicide on Twitter.

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