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Neighbors shocked by shooting death of Joseph Gatto

The shooting death of Joseph Gatto, father of Assemblyman Mike Gatto, shocked neighbors and family friends who described him as a friendly, hard-working family man.

He had an Italian charm, they said, always chatty as he walked along the Silver Lake Reservoir near his home in the 2800 block of Bright Lane. His daughter discovered him in that home shot in the chest with a small-caliber gun Wednesday night after an apparent home invasion, police said.

In a statement, Mike Gatto said he was devestated by the news, but thanked Los Angeles Police Department investigators for their "kindness and thoroughness." 

Neighbors, meanwhile, simply expressed disbelief.  

"I can't believe something like this could happen to someone so gentle," said neighbor Susan Hutchinson, who lauded Joseph Gatto's career as an educator and artist. 

He loved to make jewelry, collect antique furniture and talk about gardening, she said as news crews crowded near the scene of the crime. Police tape blocked off both ends of Bright Lane, a steep street.

"He didn't get any exercise when he walked. He'd walk 10 feet and talk to somebody and walk another 10 feet and talk to somebody," Hutchinson said.

Lauren Wayne, a Silver Lake resident and family friend, said she couldn't understand why robbers would invade Joseph Gatto's house.

"They ransacked the house for what," she said. "Antique furniture?"

The Gattos are a close-knit family, Wayne said, noting that every Wednesday night, family members would eat dinner together. Her best friend, Marianna Gatto, found him in the house a little past 8 p.m.

"He was an amazing father who instilled amazing drive in his kids. He taught them to serve the community," Wayne said. "He was an amazing grandfather, patient and kind."

The killing has put some neighbors on edge--Wayne said it's made her want to get a guard dog-- but Janet Cummingham, who sits on the Silver Lake Neighborhood Council, said she still feels safe.

"I feel very secure here," Cummingham said.

The incident marked the first homicide in Silver Lake this year, according to the L.A. Times' Homicide Report database.

-- Brittany Levine, brittany.levine@latimes.com 

Follow on Google+ and on Twitter: @brittanylevine.

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