Father of California assemblyman killed in home

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Associated Press

Posted on November 14, 2013 at 10:01 PM

Updated Thursday, Nov 14 at 10:01 PM

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Police investigating the killing of a California assemblyman's father said Thursday there were no indications the shooting was politically motivated.

Joseph Gatto, 78, the father of Assemblyman Mike Gatto, was found by a relative on Wednesday at his ransacked home in the Silver Lake area of Los Angeles.

"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 police Deputy Chief Kirk Albanese, who oversees detectives.

More than a dozen detectives from the Robbery-Homicide Division canvassed the neighborhood, searching for clues and witnesses in the ongoing investigation. No arrests had been made and a motive remained unclear. Albanese declined further comment.

Mike Gatto, D-Los Angeles, was "absolutely devastated" after learning of his father's death by phone in Sacramento, he said in a statement.

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."

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.

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AP photographer Damian Dovarganes contributed to this report.

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