Spread of An International Street Gang

MS-13 gang member arrested in El Salvador. Photo: Luis Sinco/Los Angeles Times

MS-13 gang member arrested in El Salvador. Photo: Luis Sinco/Los Angeles Times

This gritty multimedia project took me across the United States and into Mexico and Central America. We showed how a U.S. immigration policy of deporting “criminal aliens” backfired with members of the Mara Salvatrucha, spreading what was once a Los Angeles gang across six countries and 33 states.

VIDEOS: Gang Spreads Across U.S. and Central America

We captured original video footage inside a prison in El Salvador and interviewed gang members, law enforcement officials, victims and intervention workers for this eight-month-long project. Here’s the link to the entire series.

PHOTOS: MS-13 Gang in U.S. and El Salvador

Seeking the Ruben Salazar Files

In the months leading up to the 40th anniversary of the killing of Ruben Salazar, I filed a California Public Records Act request with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department seeking documents that might shed light on what happened the day the newsman died. An L.A. Times columnist and Spanish-language KMEX-TV news director, Salazar was shot in the head by a tear-gas missile fired by a sheriff’s deputy after rioting exploded in East L.A. during the National Chicano Moratorium Against the Vietnam War on Aug. 29, 1970. The case has been clouded by controversy and speculation for 40 years.
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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.

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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.

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.

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