HACIENDA HEIGHTS – It’s been a month since 15-year-old Gabriel Mercado Jr. was shot to death in his front yard.His mother, Esperanza Mercado, has begun packing away his clothes and belongings.Herson, nicknamed “Gordo” – or “chubby” – when he was a baby, struggled in school, said Mercado, but he loved his brother and sister and tried to take care of her, a single mother.“He was very loving, very caring, trusting person. He and I were very close,” Mercado said. Gabriel was the man of the house ever since Mercado divorced his father, she said.The teen, who attended Wilson High School his freshman year, was killed Oct. 18 as he walked outside his house in the 16000 block of Garo Street to meet someone, sheriff’s deputies said.Witnesses heard shots, then found him lying on the front lawn. No one could say whether the shooter was on foot or in a car.Industry sheriff’s deputies say the shooting was a gang incident and are investigating.Mercado denied her son was in a gang.“They say, `You got your son killed by allowing him to have gang member friends.’ But I loved my son, I’m proud of him. I gave birth to him, watched him take his first steps, raised him for 15 years.”Albert Clegg, principal at Wilson High School, said Gabriel attended freshman year at the school, but attended “sporadically” and didn’t start school at Wilson High this year.He said the school has offered counseling for students upset by the shooting.Some Hacienda Heights residents are taking the incident as a call to get more involved in their neighborhoods.Maria Tucker, whose family has lived in Hacienda Heights for more than 50 years, said people on her block, which is near where the shooting happened, want to start a Neighborhood Watch group.“It’s not like this is a gang-infested neighborhood. I guess there’s a sense of, not panic, but a disconcerting sort of feeling, that this doesn’t feel right. We don’t feel as safe as we used to,” she said.A Wilson High School alumna who is director of community and multicultural programs at Pomona College, Tucker decided after the shooting to get involved in providing more activities for teenagers to get involved in.“This boy was a member of our community, and we failed him,” said Tucker, who plans to attend the Hacienda Heights Improvement Association meeting Monday, in which community safety will be discussed.Deputy Brian Sanford, Hacienda Heights’ “town sheriff,” said the shooting was an isolated incident and that violent crime is not on the rise in Hacienda Heights.“It’s been quiet since that murder,” he said. “Hacienda Heights is by no means unsafe.”Sanford said residents must take the initiative if they want to start a neighborhood watch on their block. Groups generally meet once a month and elect a block captain to coordinate. If enough neighbors are interested in starting one, they can call the sheriff’s Industry Station at (626) 330-3322, and a deputy will come to speak to the group, he said.“It’s open to whoever wants to get involved,” he said, but, in Hacienda Heights, there hasn’t been a huge interest in the groups. [email protected](626) 962-8811, Ext. 2306 AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREWalnut’s Malik Khouzam voted Southern California Boys Athlete of the Week160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!