Vigil held for man allegedly beaten to death by crowd in Hawthorne

A candlelight vigil was held Tuesday in Hawthorne in memory of a man allegedly beaten to death by people who pulled him from a truck that just missed striking several patrons on a sidewalk in front of a bar.

The vigil for Melguin Lopez Santos was held outside the Rock It Sports Lounge in the 14200 block of Hawthorne Boulevard, near Rosecrans Avenue and the border with Lawndale.

"I wish he was still here to spend time with my family and me," the victim's son, Brandon Lopez, said at the vigil.

Hawthorne police received several calls about 12:10 a.m. Saturday regarding a vehicle driving on a sidewalk attempting to strike several people who were standing near the bar.

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The driver, later identified as Santos, had gotten into an argument earlier inside the Rock It Sports Lounge and was asked to leave, but returned, driving his truck onto the sidewalk where he nearly struck several patrons, according to the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department. The man eventually lost control of the truck and it struck a tree.

"Surrounding patrons attempted to take the driver out of the vehicle, but the driver was able to accelerate and drove his truck into a nearby building," according to a sheriff's department statement. "Patrons again took the driver out of the vehicle, and a physical altercation ensued, at this time Hawthorne police arrived on scene."

Hawthorne officers arrived within minutes of the call and found Lopez Santos on the ground suffering from apparent blunt force trauma, sheriff's officials said. Paramedics attempted life-saving measures but he was pronounced dead at the scene.

Sheriff's officials said four men were considered prime suspects, but no descriptions were released.

Those involved are being sought for questioning and the sheriff's department needs to get their side of events before detectives can determine what happened and decide if arrests should be made, Deputy Eva Jimenez told City News Service.

Lopez Santos' wife, Monica Perez told reporters on Monday, "I just want justice, I want justice for my husband. I feel like this wasn't no accident, he was murdered. It wasn't a car impact, somebody dragged him. I want the truth. Somebody is covering something in this bar and we need to investigate."

Said Perez's sister, Ilene Perez: "We just want to know the story on what happened ... this is not fair .

"His children are small, missing their father. Put yourself in my sister's situation. How would you feel if it was one of your family members that's going through this?"

Sheriff's homicide detectives were assisting Hawthorne police with the investigation.

The 40-year-old Lopez Santos was a Los Angeles resident, according to the Los Angeles County coroner's office. An autopsy was pending to determine the cause of his death.

Anyone with information on the case was urged to call the Sheriff's Homicide Bureau at 323-890-5500. Anonymous tips can be called in to Crime Stoppers at 800-222-8477 or submitted online at lacrimestoppers.org.

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