The parish communities of Santa Rosa de Lima Church in San Fernando and Guardian Angel Church in Pacoima are mourning the loss of two beloved parishioners, who were shot and killed on their way to Mass early Aug. 24 in an apparent series of random shootings in the San Fernando Valley.
In San Fernando, a young woman accompanied by her family was shot and killed shortly before 6 a.m., as she and her family were in their car. The family reportedly attended early Sunday Mass every week at Santa Rosa de Lima. The woman’s parents were also shot and were hospitalized; two younger twin siblings suffered minor injuries.
(Because the Los Angeles Police Department had not publicly identified the shooting victim as of press time, The Tidings has withheld her name. Updated information will be posted as available on The Tidings’ website.)
Family members and parish staff described the family as well-loved and respected in the parish community, members of Santa Rosa de Lima for almost 20 years, and actively involved in parish life.
Less than an hour after that attack, a random shooting also claimed the life of Gloria Tovar, 59, who had been a parishioner of Guardian Angel for 15 years. Father Steven Guitron, pastor, told The Tidings that Gloria was a very active and devoted parishioner, alongside her husband Santiago.
Parents and grandparents, the Tovars both served as ushers, and Gloria also ministered to the sick. On the morning of the shooting she was picking up a fellow minister to the sick to attend the 7 a.m. Mass together, and following the service they were going to take Communion to the homebound, explained Father Guitron.
In his homilies during later Masses that Sunday, Father Guitron addressed the issue of violence in the surrounding community — “and our witness of Christ.”
“In the Gospel Jesus asks the question, ‘Who do you say that I am?’” Father Guitron noted. “Gloria, in devoting her life to care for those who are in need and bringing the Eucharist to them every Sunday, was declaring who Jesus is.
“I am amazed how Santiago is drawing on his own faith for his own strength and courage,” he continued. “To him, it’s a consolation to know the faith she had, to believe in the life and the resurrection… It makes me very proud as a pastor to know that my own people can draw on their faith at a time of such [tragedy].”
In between these two shooting deaths, a third victim was fatally shot at the Sylmar Recreational Center at approximately 6:30 a.m. An unidentified 29-year-old man was collecting bottles and cans when he was gunned down in the parking lot at the recreation center. He was pronounced dead at the scene.
Alexander Hernandez, a 34-year-old man from Sylmar, originally detained by the Los Angeles Police Department as a “person of interest” in the Aug. 24 shooting spree, was named as a suspect Aug. 25. He also was held on suspicion of animal cruelty for the alleged shooting of two dogs on Aug. 23. His bail has been set at $1 million.
In addition to the Sunday morning shootings, Hernandez is also being called a “person of interest” in two earlier shooting incidents: one on the 5 Freeway in Atwater Village on Aug. 20 that wounded a woman, and another in Pacoima on Aug. 21 that left a man dead, according to the LAPD. Anyone with information about the shootings is urged to call the LAPD at 1-877-LAPD-24-7.