Calif. assemblyman says slain dad ‘tremendous guy’

Nov 15, 2013, 7:30 AM

LOS ANGELES (AP) – A California assemblyman paid tribute to his slain father while police said there is no indication that his son’s political role had anything to do with the killing.

Police have made no arrests and found no clear motive for the killing of Joseph Gatto, 78, the father of Assemblyman Mike Gatto, was found by a relative at his ransacked home in the Silver Lake area of Los Angeles.

Mike Gatto, D-Los Angeles, spoke to reporters outside his father’s home Thursday night after rushing down from Sacramento.

“My sister called me and said that she found my father dead,” Mike Gatto said. “He was just a tremendous guy. He worked very hard to raise us right.”

His voice breaking, Gatto said “I’m not going to lie to you, it’s really hard. We’re doing our best.”

Deputy Chief Kirk Albanese, who oversees LAPD detectives, said politics appeared to play no part in the Wednesday night killing.

“We don’t have any information that would suggest it would have anything to do with the occupation of his son, or anything that had to do with the role his son played in politics,” said Albanese. He offered no further comment.

More than a dozen detectives from the Robbery-Homicide Division canvassed the neighborhood, searching for clues and witnesses in the ongoing investigation.

Joseph Gatto was a retired art teacher whose career spanned more than 40 years. He also was an uncompromising jewelry craftsman who liked to use ancient symbols in his work, said Marbeth Scohn, a writer and jewelry historian who interviewed him last year for her online magazine.

Gatto designed unique pieces, including adjustable rings for people who had arthritis, Scohn said.

“He was a very hard worker,” Scohn said. “I think his work is so much different than anything than I had ever seen before.”

Mike Gatto said Thursday night that his father’s jewelry could be a reason why he was targeted, but that it was not the sort of jewelry burglars would normally be after.

“This was not diamonds and platinum,” he said.

Gary Soerensen said he worked with Gatto at Los Angeles County High School for the Arts. Gatto hired staff and helped recruit students as chair of the school’s visual arts department until about 2001.

“He was a person who stood up for what he believed in,” said Soerensen, who heads the school’s musical theater department. “He was a fighter in the sense of what students and education needed. He was a superb role model for students.”

Gatto was a friendly figure in the trendy Silver Lake neighborhood who shared his homegrown heirloom tomatoes with neighbors and showed up at yard sales, said Mark Brown, who lived around the corner.

The crime has horrified a neighborhood considered very safe, Brown said _ a place where people jog, bicycle and walk dogs at all hours at the nearby reservoir, and where kids play on the sidewalks.

“My kids are very frightened,” he said. “My daughter this morning said she wanted to move immediately. She’s 14.”

Albanese encouraged anyone with “any knowledge about what may have happened, if they saw anything, if they heard anything” to call police.

Mike Gatto was elected to represent the 43rd District in a special election three years ago.

___

AP photographer Damian Dovarganes contributed to this report.

(Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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Calif. assemblyman says slain dad ‘tremendous guy’