By Stephanie Garibay
Nearly three years after Gabriel Soto, former East Los Angeles College football player, was killed, the Los Angeles Police Department has arrested three men in connection with the murder.
The arrests came just days after the LAPD announced a $20,000 reward for any information leading to an arrest.
The reward was announced on Nov. 19, but has yet to be claimed. The three men were identified as Jonathan Gonzalez, 28, Roque Solis, 30, and Anthony Gabriel, 25.
Gonzalez and Solis were arrested on Dec. 9 on search warrants at their East Los Angeles homes, while Gabriel was arrested on Dec. 11 at the Los Angeles County Criminal Courts building on a probable cause warrant.
Soto’s family found out about the arrests on Dec.11.
“The detective called my sister, Vanessa, and told her to get the family together and he would be at the house shortly. So we got together and he told us he had arrested three men in connection to the shooting,” Isabelle Avila, Soto’s sister, said.
The family was not provided any details on the information leading to the arrest.
“Hearing the news for us was bittersweet. It was like living that moment all over again,” Joanna Avila, Soto’s sister-in-law, said.
Although the information that led to the arrest came just weeks after the reward was announced, Isabelle believes the reward had nothing to do with it, especially since it had not been claimed.
“I think it had been so long that people who knew what happened or knew who it was, it had finally started to rest on their consciences,” Avila, said.
Soto had been attending Lincoln University in Missouri, playing football on a scholarship and studying electrical engineering.
Soto was on break visiting home when the shooting occurred.
“The day that my brother passed away, he and my mom picked me up from work and we went around to a lot of different Metro stations to drop off his resume. When we went home he got on the computer and started working on his resume some more,” Avila said.
Soto’s friends had not known he was home visiting, but as soon as they found out, they decided to get together that night to see him.
“I remember his cousin was trying to convince him to go out and he kept saying, ‘No, no, I need to work on my resume,’ and his cousin told him ‘You have all summer to work on it.’ So he decided to go hang out with his friends,” Avila said.
While at his friend’s house, the three suspects drove by the house opened the gate and started shooting.
Soto was shot in the chest and a friend was shot in the leg. Soto’s friend survived his injuries.
The LAPD believe the shooters are gang-affiliated, although Soto and his friends are not.
“We never stopped fighting. If it wasn’t for my sister Vanessa pushing for the reward, we wouldn’t have gotten to where we are today,” Isabelle said.
Soto was the first of his siblings to graduate high school and go to college.
“Gabriel had a lot to be proud of. We were so proud of him,” Isabelle said.
Soto’s family worked hard to get answers about his death and expose his story, doing everything from car washes, fund raisers and interviews with different news stations.
“I had never seen anything like how the community got together for Gabriel. It hurts to say, but his loss has helped touch the lives of so many people. People even go to his grave site and leave gifts for him. We don’t know who these people are, but we don’t care as long as he is never forgotten,” Isabelle said.
Although Soto died before he was able to graduate from Lincoln University, his mom will be presented with his engineering degree sometime this year.
“A couple days before Gabriel passed away, he told me everything he does, he does it for his nephews because he could see how much they admired him. And my son tells me ‘Mom, I want to be like Uncle Bobo,’ and if my son is anything like the man my brother was, I am all for it,” Isabelle said.