seeking justice

Left Orphans, Young Girls Plead to Find Their Mother's Killer

The 39-year-old mother was the unintended target of a gang shooting while waiting for the bus.

Dianey Santos never got the chance to say goodbye to her two young daughters.

"For me, it's hard to believe," Emily Santos said. "It's hard to believe that from one day to the other, she's gone."

Emily, 15, and her 9-year-old sister Melizabeth got an LAPD escort to the hospital the same night their mother was shot in the head by an alleged South LA gang member.

"I didn't know it would be something that horrible," Emily recalls.

For LAPD South Bureau Criminal Gang Homicide Detective Shawn Svoboda, this case has taken on a more personal connection. He was with the girls when they saw their mother connected to hospital equipment to keep her breathing. And he was with them as the girls cried and hugged their mother, before doctors pulled the plug.

"This was an innocent person waiting for the bus," Det. Svoboda said of the 39-year-old mother. "And I believe there are people in this neighborhood who know what happened."

It happened June 20, 2016 at the corner of West 83rd Street and South Broadway. Dianey Santos was waiting for the bus around 9:30 p.m. when at least two surveillance cameras caught what happened.

Svoboda said it appears the shooter had chased after an intended target  a rival gang member  but when that target turned the corner, the shooter reached around and seemed to fire aimlessly. One bullet struck Santos in the head and killed her.

Today, there is a roadside memorial to Santos at that same bus stop, a picture of her and her daughters is posted there as well as a picture of Santos in her hospital bed, with a plea to public to come forward with answers.

"She was an innocent person," Emily says, with the forced maturity of a young adult, "she never did harm to anyone."

Detective Svoboda released a sketch of the shooter to NBC4  the face of the man witnesses say killed Santos and left her daughters orphaned, living with family friends as they navigate county social services.

"She was a single mother for both of us," Emily said through tears. "She was a hard-working mother. She only worked for us. We got along very well, both of us with her. She was more than our mother, she had always been there."

Detectives say the area of 83rd and Broadway is notorious for gang crime and that what happened to Santos should be a wake-up call to all of Los Angeles: If you think you're unaffected by gang violence because you don't have any ties, think again. Santos was only waiting for the bus.

Det. Svoboda said the intended target in the shooting did speak with investigators, but has not been forthcoming with information they believe he may have on the shooter. That's why police are hoping neighbors will step up and be the heroes two young girls need.

"We're not gonna bring any heat on you," Det. Svoboda said. "We want to solve this crime so this person doesn't kill another person."

Anyone with information is asked to contact LAPD South Bureau Detectives at 323-786-5100. Callers can remain anonymous.

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