Eddie Lopez was a popular student, a promising outfielder in Santa Monica High School’s baseball program and a loving son and grandson. He never got the chance to be more.
Ten years ago this month, Lopez was shot and killed while walking with friends near Virginia Avenue Park. He was 15 years old.
It’s been a difficult decade filled with mourning and healing for those who knew Lopez, and community members want to make sure he is not forgotten.
A memorial mass is scheduled for 1:15 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 28, at St. Monica Catholic Church, 725 California Ave.
Following the service, family and friends will gather for a potluck meal at Virginia Avenue Park. Loved ones have already planned to bring carne asada, chicken and pots of rice.
Organizers are hoping the memorial and potluck demonstrate their support for Lopez’s mother, Armita, and provide her with a measure of comfort during what figures to be a particularly emotional anniversary.
Longtime resident Louise Jaffe, the current chair of the Santa Monica College board of trustees, said it’s hard to believe that a decade has passed since Lopez was killed.
“Lots of things have changed since then,” Jaffe wrote in a letter to friends of the Lopez family and the rest of the community. “Virginia Avenue Park is full of life, activity, learning, and play. And, as a community, we continue to work together so that all of our families and children thrive. We will keep working, but this Sunday, if you can, come to St. Monica’s and/or Virginia Avenue Park to share a moment of remembrance and regret with Eddie’s mom.”
Lopez, who police said was not known to have any gang affiliations, was shot while walking with friends near the corner of Pico Boulevard and 26th Street. His killing struck a nerve in Santa Monica as violence and gang activity persisted, particularly in the Pico Neighborhood.
As Santa Monica police worked to solve the murder, community members tried to affect change. Hundreds marched with the boy’s family near Samohi, calling for peace and unity.
In November 2013, following a two-week trial, Jose Contreras Zapien was convicted of murder in the 2006 slayings of Lopez and 22-year-old Miguel Martin. Zapien was also convicted of 12 other attempted murders.
In early 2014, he was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. The 27-year-old is currently an inmate at Calipatria State Prison, according to state Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation records.
Meanwhile, members of the local community cling to fond memories of Lopez.
Fernando Padilla, a former Santa Monica firefighter, said he got to know Lopez because he and Padilla’s son played baseball together. He said he sometimes picked up Lopez for practices and games and that the boy was often running late because he was helping his grandmother.
“Eddie was a great person, filled with joy and laughter,” Padilla said. “He honestly loved his family and was dedicated to them. We miss Eddie.”