Counselor of young gang members is slain Ana Lizarraga advised on film "American Me."

May 15, 1992|By Los Angeles Times

LOS ANGELES -- A Los Angeles woman who had dedicated her life to counseling youths away from gangs and served as a technical adviser on the Latino gang film "American Me" was gunned down execution-style in her driveway by two masked men, police said yesterday.

Ana Lizarraga, 49, grew up tough in the Ramona Gardens project and spent the last 10 years of her life as one of the top counselors with Community Youth Gang Services.

Ms. Lizarraga was fatally shot by gunmen from less than 10 feet away as she packed her van in preparation for a trip to Utah to attend her mother's funeral.

An officer in a passing patrol car witnessed the shooting late Wednesday night and called for back-up. Within minutes police arrested one suspect, Jose Gilbert Gonzalez, 29, who had been released from prison last month. The other suspect, who

has not been identified, fled.

Police detective Robert Suter said that the slaying was "absolutely not" gang-related.

"This is an execution," Detective Souter said. "Somebody lies in wait, they don't say a thing and then fill you full of bullets."

A California Department of Corrections official said that Mr. Gonzalez was a member of the Hazard Street gang, an East Los Angeles gang whose members Lizarraga had counseled. Mr. Gonzalez had Hazard tatoos all over his body, said Jerry Dimaggio, a parole administrator.

Mr. Gonzalez, who was booked on suspicion of murder, was released from Folsom Prison in Northern California April 27 after after serving almost two years on weapon possession charges, Mr. Dimaggio said.

Los Angeles police would release no other details about the shooting and would not say whether the shooting was related to Ms. Lizarraga's gang work.

One detective at the scene of the shooting said there was no known motive and that she had not reported receiving any threats.

Detective Suter would not comment as to whether her advisory role and small part in the film "American Me," which chronicles the violent rise of the Mexican Mafia and Latino prison gangs, was related to her death. The film, which starred and was directed by Edward James Olmos, was created to strip away glorified illusions about prison and street gangs, Mr. Olmos has said.

Police said Ms. Lizarraga's killing was the second murder of someone associated with the film. They said another technical adviser, Charles Manriquez, a reputed member of the Mexican Mafia, was shot to death March 25 at the Ramona Gardens housing project, less than a mile from Ms. Lizarraga's home.

However, representatives of Mr. Olmos denied that Mr. Manriquez, also known as Charlie Brown, was involved with the film.

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