LOS ANGELES – A graffiti-removal worker painting over a wall in the Boyle Heights section of the city was fatally shot Thursday morning by a gunman who police believe was angry because his gang tags were being covered.
The shooting sparked outrage in the neighborhood, where gang violence has long been a problem and community groups have been working to cover up the graffiti that seems to appear in fresh batches every morning.
Miguel Rafael Gomez, 34, was shot several times about 5:30 a.m. as he smoothed white paint over the graffiti-covered wall of a warehouse, police said. One, possibly two, suspects approached the worker, opened fire on Gomez and fled on foot.
Gomez and the two other workers present were employed by Homeboy Industries, a community organization that provides jobs to gang members as a way of breaking criminal ties. Gomez, a former gang member, was released from state prison three months ago, where he had been incarcerated for 10 years.
Officials could not say what crime sent him to prison.
Los Angeles Police Department Det. Carey Ricard said officials don’t think his gang ties had anything to do with the shooting. Rather, they believe the suspect fired out of anger that his gang’s graffiti was being removed.
“It was an opportunistic moment. This happened at 5:30 in the morning. They had a couple of minutes of darkness still,” Ricard said.
“I have nothing to suggest that (Gomez) was doing something wrong.”