PICO RIVERA — A lifelong Pico Rivera resident and father of three was shot to death Sunday in an alley near his home, authorities and family members said.
Ernest Salazar, 48, was walking home from the Wagon Wheel bar about 3:30 a.m. near Durfee Avenue and Beverly Road when the shooting occurred, according to Los Angeles County sheriff’s officials and relatives.
Salazar was pronounced dead at the scene, sheriff’s Deputy Lillian Peck said.
His sister, Mary Salazar, recalled him as a kind-hearted, generous man who loved his family.
“He had a loving heart,” she said. “He was a giver. He opened up his heart and his home to anybody and everybody who came around him.”
Few details were released Sunday about the attack, and Mary Salazar said investigators had given her little information.
Detectives handling the investigation did not return calls for comment.
Neighborhood resident Mario Sainz, 16, said he heard what sounded like several gunshots coming from the direction of the alley overnight.
“After I heard the shots, I heard a car leaving,” he said.
Sainz said investigators had blocked off the area until about 9 a.m.
A group of mourners gathered Sunday afternoon at the shooting scene, consoling one another.
They placed candles, beer cans and photos of Ernest Salazar near the area where he was gunned down.
On the wall, the words “R.I.P. Big Veto V.P.V.” were written. Relatives said “Veto” was Salazar’s nickname.
V.P.V. is a commonly used acronym for a Pico Rivera street gang, Varrio Pico Viejo. But Mary Salazar said her brother was not involved in gangs.
“He was just a family man,” she said. “He made friends wherever. “He didn’t have much, but he gave whatever he could.”
Salazar, who grew up in Pico Rivera, had two sons, 27 and 24, and a 21-year-old daughter. He also had several grandchildren, Mary Salazar said, and was a big sports fan.
“He was a die-hard Raider fan,” she said. “He loved the Lakers and he loved the Raiders.”
Ernest Salazar’s niece, Angel Garcia, said her uncle was deeply devoted to family.
“He loved his family so much,” she said. “He was so happy to see or hear you. It made you feel warm inside.”
Relatives said Ernest Salazar would be greatly missed.
“We look at pictures and see the good times we had with him,” Mary Salazar said. “I just want everyone to remember the good times.”
*Photo of Ernest Salazar courtesy of the Salazar family.