A story for every victim

Young father made break from gangs but fight takes his life

Timothy James Teopaco had recently made some major changes in his life.

The 19-year-old former gang member had finished training to become a pharmacy tech, completed an internship at Walgreens and planned to get his own place with his high school sweetheart and 2-year-old son.

“It’s not about me anymore,”  he would tell his mother, Malou Teopaco.

The last time she talked to her son, on the night of July 26, he was hanging out at the pool at the apartment complex where the family lives. She then woke up to a call in the early morning from his girlfriend, Amanda Navejas, alerting her of a shooting.

Teopaco had gone to a nearby restaurant in the 11600 block of South Street in Cerritos after a friend called him regarding a fight.  As the group that his friends were fighting were leaving in a vehicle, Teopaco was shot.  

Navejas said she arrived five minutes later to find Teopaco on the ground. She watched as his body, lying on a stretcher, was wheeled into an ambulance. He later died, and became the second homicide in Artesia this year.

Sheriff’s officials this week released a photo of Boren Lay, 19, who is suspected of shooting Teopaco.  Lay, who officials said is a gang member, is known to frequent the Long Beach area. A warrant for Lay’s arrest has been issued.

Navejas said she hopes that someone will come forward with information about Lay, “That way he won’t hurt anyone else.”

Melou Teopaco said her son had a “good heart.” When he was in middle school, he’d always offer his friends rides home if it was too hot outside or raining. His mother, frustrated at the time, laughs about it now.

Even as he grew older, he didn’t mind carrying his mother’s purse or showing affection. He’d frequently ask her how her day was.

“He was sweet,” she said.

For months, Malou Teopaco wasn’t able to wash the blanket on her son’s bed. She didn’t want it to lose his scent.

When she finally did wash it, “I was crying in the laundry,” she said.

Now, Malou Teopaco and her daughter, Christine, miss the murmur of music playing from Timothy Teopaco’s bedroom. “It’s quiet,” said Christine Teopaco, 18.

In the living room of the Teopacos’ apartment in Cerritos, Timothy Teopaco’s ashes sit atop a piano, along with his ukulele and a large framed picture.

“He had a bad past,” Christine Teopaco said. “But that didn’t define who he was.”

Anyone with information about the shooting is asked to call the Sheriff’s Department Homicide Bureau at (323) 890-5500. Those who wish to remain anonymous can call Crime Stoppers at (800) 222-8477.

-- Nicole Santa Cruz

Top photo: Timothy Teopaco. Bottom photo: Boren Lay, who is being sought by police in connection with Teopaco's death.

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