Ruben Salazar’s Suspicious Slaying


Ruben Salzar’s Legacy Lives On from Robert Lopez on Vimeo.

To this day, questions still swirl around the death of L.A. Times columnist and KMEX news director Ruben Salazar, who was killed by a Sheriff’s deputy on Aug. 29, 1970. I produced this Ruben Salazar video, pictured above, in 2008 after the U.S. Postal Service unveiled a stamp honoring the reporter’s legacy. My Column One article was written in 1995 for  the L.A. Times on the 25th anniversary of the newsman’s slaying. I relied on a variety of sources, including friends and colleagues of Salazar, as well as documents from the FBI and LAPD, to reconstruct the final weeks before Salazar was killed by a sheriff’s deputy while covering an anti-Vietnam War rally that exploded into violence. I also wrote a follow-up article in 1999, after waiting nearly six years for the FBI’s Salazar file.

Read more

Mapping Traffic Problems


View Westside traffic — some of the worst in the U.S. in a larger map

Sometimes visualizations are the best way to convey information. I produced this interactive map as part of a news package about traffic on the Westside of Los Angeles — some of the nation’s worst. The map was a perfect platform for viewers to check traffic data in areas they traveled. I obtained the raw data from the cities of Los Angeles and Santa Monica and then crunched the numbers to find congested intersections and analyze traffic patterns over a period of several years. To tell my tale, I wrote the story around a mother, Cathy Glueck, who lives on the Westside and relishes the challenge of tackling traffic. After interviewing her, I knew she would be great in front of a camera. So here’s a video I also produced, which takes viewers on a ride along with Glueck as she travels with her daughter to soccer practice during the afternoon rush hour.

Affluence, Homelessness Collide In Venice

I produced this 2009 video and article while investigating a proposal to ban overnight parking in Venice, an affluent beach community in Los Angeles. The proposal, ultimately rejected by the state Coastal Commission, would have prevented people from sleeping in their vehicles. In recent years, Venice has become a magnet for people who live in their vans, cars, RVs and campers. The issue has been divisive and controversial. This story was ideally suited for video, allowing viewers to see the situation for themselves and meet people on both sides of the controversy.

Boxing Keeps Youths Away From Gangs

This 2008 project was a great opportunity to shoot video footage in a classic boxing gym, as well as shine a light on a program that helps keep kids out of trouble. The place is a throwback to an era when cigar-chomping managers oversaw prizefighters who had little more than desire and an abundance of heart.

Illegal Dumping Plagues L.A. Neighborhoods

This 2008 video, along with the article I wrote, shocked many of our viewers. Armed with my camera, I documented how alleys in some of the city’s poorest neighborhoods were filled with trash, festering for up to six weeks before being cleaned by city crews. The refuse included household garbage and construction rubble, as well as dead dogs and roosters. I also produced an interactive map with embedded video content showing arrest locations, illegal-dumping hot stops and problem alleys.

 Read more

LAPD Cracks Down On Illegal Dumping

L.A. city responded quickly to my illegal dumping investigation. The mayor ordered reforms in the Public Works Department, the main agency responsible for enforcing illegal dumping and keeping alleys clean. On top of that, the LAPD formed a task force to arrest violators caught dumping refuse in South Los Angeles. The police response is documented by this story and video.

Venice Beach, Surfing Lifestyle

This was a fun 2008 video to produce. I got to surf and shoot footage in the water with a special housing for my camcorder. Shooting in the water poses an entirely different set of challenges, chief among those is that there is no stable footing. You have to hold the camera steady while you swim around and float in the water — all while working against the waves and current. Here’s the article I wrote that accompanied the video.

Hurricane Aid Sits While Victims Starve

I traveled to disaster-ravaged Nicaragua for this 1999 story. This was intended to be a warm-and-fuzzy feature about aid for Hurricane Mitch victims that was donated from people in Los Angeles. The relief supplies — hundreds of tons — were supposed to be passed out by the Catholic Church. But the story turned into a harder-edged investigative piece after the supplies were confiscated by the president’s daughter and left sitting on the docks while victims suffered.

Read more

Councilman Used Cocaine With Contractor

This 1998 piece was one of many stories that another reporter and I produced as part of a two-year series of articles investigating alleged corruption by former L.A. Councilman Richard Alatorre. We reported how he engaged in alleged bank fraud, showed up with wads of $100 bills after meeting with businessmen in his district and, in this piece, how he used cocaine with a contractor he supported for taxpayer-funded work. Alatorre later tested positive for cocaine in an unrelated child-custody case and was convicted in federal court for failing to declare income. The federal probe was sparked by our stories.

Read more

Paramedic Discipline Haphazard

This 2007 investigation examined breakdowns in oversight of paramedics and emergency medical technicians in California’s huge emergency medical network. We built a database with every paramedic discipline case recorded by the state agency charged with regulating the rescuers. We also built a similar database of people licensed as emergency medical technicians by county authorities and uncovered the same types of oversight problems. Our findings were acknowledged by state and local medical officials and helped prompt changes in the system.
Read more