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Roberto Lopez Jr., 4 [Updated]

Roberto Lopez Jr. (2009-01-13)

Roberto Lopez Jr., a 4-year-old Latino, was shot and killed Tuesday, Jan. 13, in Echo Park. Times reporters Esme Bermudez and Andrew Blankstein reported on his death, which shook Roberto's Echo Park neighborhood:

The same driveway that played host to so many family parties -- including 4-year-old Roberto Lopez Jr.'s birthday celebration last month -- turned into a scene of sorrow Wednesday, a day after the boy was killed by shots fired at a red car driving through the neighborhood south of Echo Park.

Under a blue tarp suspended over the driveway, dozens of relatives, friends and neighbors formed a circle on the pavement, weeping and praying on the same spot where just a month ago Roberto Jr. blew out his birthday candles and broke his pinata.

His parents, Roberto Lopez and Araceli Gonzalez Lopez, who are due to have a fourth child at the end of the month, sat inconsolable with red-rimmed eyes. They remembered their boy who would proudly don cowboy boots and a felt sombrero to dance among the adults.

"He would dance in the living room. He would dance outside," said his grandfather, Serafin Gonzalez, 52, choking back tears. "He would dance everywhere."

The shooting shook up the gentrifying hillside neighborhood where, two years ago, a 9-year-old girl was killed by gang cross-fire as she stood in the kitchen of her home.

Keep reading: Stunned family and neighbors mourn slain child

[Updated March 5, 2010: Howard Astorga, 26, was convicted by a Los Angeles County Superior Court jury of killing Roberto Lopez Jr. The full story: Gang member convicted in slaying of boy, 4, in Echo Park]

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