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Teen Is Shot to Death Over a Tire

A Rowland Heights man is arrested on suspicion of murder. Victim was sitting in car as friends tried to steal wheel.

June 18, 2003|Allison Hoffman | Times Staff Writer

A Rowland Heights man who discovered four teenagers trying to steal a tire from his car shot and killed one of them Monday night, the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department said.

Fifteen-year-old Andrew Rocha, who recently completed ninth grade at Rowland High School, was shot in the upper torso as he sat in the back seat of a friend's car. The teenagers, according to deputies, then drove to Rocha's mother's house in the 18600 block of Barroso Street.

"I saw the car door was open and the body was just sitting in back, lying in blood," said the boy's mother, Lori Rocha, 36. "I lost my son. They took him away from me. How could they do this to my family?"

Investigators say the incident occurred just before 11:15 p.m. The suspected shooter was booked on suspicion of murder. The Sheriff's Department did not release the man's name.

The victim's half-brother, Timothy Travino, 17, said the two of them and two friends had been driving around Rowland Heights in a car with a flat tire. Travino said the car owner couldn't afford to have the tire fixed and decided to steal one from a car on Fairway Street. He said he and Andrew stayed in the car as their friends set to work removing the tire. But before they got it off, a group of men in their 20s approached and "started shooting," Travino said.

Travino said the men grabbed one of the two youths trying to steal the tire, but the car owner ran back to his vehicle and drove off with a bleeding Rocha in the rear seat. Once they pulled into the family's front lawn, Travino and the driver ran into the home yelling Andrew's name. Neighbors called 911.

Travino insisted that neither he nor Andrew were involved in gangs. "We never got involved with that kind of stuff," he said.

"Look, he was a great kid; he was confused," said Orlando Rocha, an uncle. "He was in and out of school, but he didn't ever hurt anyone.... It was just a tire."

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Times staff writer Monte Morin contributed to this report.

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