The fatal shooting Tuesday of 52-year-old man in the Northeast Los Angeles neighborhood of Hermon tied up traffic for hours on the northbound Pasadena (110) freeway near Avenue 60, but did little to disturb the tranquil afternoon for dog walkers, cyclists and people out for an afternoon stroll on the pathways adjacent to the patch of dirt where police found the victims’ body.
Reports of four to five bullets being fired came in shortly after 5 p.m. Tuesday, said Los Angeles Police Department Officer Sara Faden.
It took police nearly an hour to locate the body after the initial reports of gunshots.
was found in the dirt by the freeway and close to, but not in, a nearby wash, Faden said. The victim was killed by a single shot to the head, according to police.
Trees and shrubbery obscured the scene for passersby on the dirt path just east of the wash. Several people told EGP they heard a helicopter flying overhead, but assumed there was an accident on the freeway.
At the nearby Hermon Dog Park, it was business as usual.
“Angie” and an unidentified female friend, however, ran to the wash when they heard on a local television station that there had been a fatal shooting. “Do you know who it is,” Angie frantically asked EGP as she tried to get a closer look at the scene unfolding on the opposite bank of the wash, the water too deep for her to cross safely.
Angie, a name she reluctantly gave, told EGP that her brother-in-law often stayed in the area where police were conducting their investigation. “He stays there three or four times a week,” she said, adding that other homeless men often camped there as well.
A lone grocery cart, full of what looked liked someone’s personal belongings, appeared to support her claim.
“Do you know if he was a Mexican,” she asked before running off to find a way to get over to the other side.
Highland Park resident Miguel Sierra, his wife Diana and daughter Vicky happened upon the scene while out for an afternoon walk. They told EGP that the homeless usually stay further upstream, near Arroyo Seco Park.
“It’s kind of a surprise,” said Miguel, adding he considers the area safe. “I thought it was probably another accident on the freeway, they happen all the time,” he said, as a large group of cyclists on the path below whizzed by, never slowing down to take a look at the large gathering of police above.
FOX 11 News reported that investigators said the victim did not appear to be homeless and “may have been visiting the area … when he was shot dead.” Faden said Tuesday they did not have a suspect in the shooting; police are asking anyone who might have information to contact Hollenbeck detectives, or to make an anonymous report to CRIME STOPPERS.
At a park adjacent to the opposite side of the freeway, Angelica kept a close eye on her two children riding tricycles and the family’s dog as traffic backed up on the freeway, separated from the park by a cement wall topped with metal fencing.
Angelica told EGP she lives across from the park, but did not hear the shots. “I got a tweet from Northeast police and looked outside and saw a police car and an ambulance speeding up,” she said. “It was at 5:50 [p.m.].”
“I think I know who it might be,” she said, referring to the victim, adding she would wait for police release a description before she contacts them “anonymously,” if the description matches.
Still hesitant, she said the victim might be “Fred,” a regular in the area who told her he and some other homeless men had started staying in the brushy area near the freeway “when police started to get real strict with them up on Figueroa and York.”
Angelica told EGP the homeless men never bothered her or her family, and she was not afraid to be in the park when they were around.
“It’s sad, whoever it is,” she said. “To be shot and just left on the side of the road.”
The victim was identified Friday as Ruben Castaneda. Coroner’s Assistant Chief Ed Winter said his city of residence is currently unknown.