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April 21, 2004

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Publication Date: Wednesday, April 21, 2004

Menlo man shot, killed by robbers in his driveway Menlo man shot, killed by robbers in his driveway (April 21, 2004)

By Andrea Gemmet
Almanac Staff Writer

Police are searching for two suspects in an April 17 home invasion robbery that claimed the life of a 45-year-old Menlo Park man who according to family had just returned after driving his mother home from a family gathering.

Rodolfo Gonzalez came home to his family's apartment in the 1100 block of Hollyburne Avenue at around 11 p.m., and was heading inside when he was confronted by the two armed robbers who had been menacing his family, police said. The father of seven, who was accompanied by his 14-year-old son, was fatally shot in the head and collapsed in the driveway.

"My uncle, not knowing if his family is OK -- of course he's going to put up a struggle," said Mr. Gonzalez' niece, Mireya Gomez.

The robbers demanded money from Mr. Gonzalez and took his jewelry before shooting him, Ms. Gomez said.

While Mr. Gonzalez was gone, the two men armed with handguns forced their way into the apartment, threatening his wife, three children and a nephew, police said.

Police described the suspects as 18- to 21-year-old black men of medium build. Ms. Gomez said they kicked in doors and ransacked the apartment looking for money, and repeatedly tried to pull Mr. Gonzalez' youngest child, 18-month-old Katie, away from her mother, Maria.

"It was a nightmare. Baby Katie, they had her at gunpoint, to try to get money out of Maria. They didn't find anything, because they are a low-income family," said Ms. Gomez.

Her aunt and the Gonzalez children are staying with her in East Palo Alto because they don't feel safe in their apartment anymore, Ms. Gomez said.

Her aunt Maria, 26, works at a taco stand down the street from the apartment, and her uncle, who suffered from advanced diabetes, stayed home with the couple's youngest children during the day, Ms. Gomez said. He had several children from a previous marriage, the oldest of whom is 17 and attends Menlo-Atherton High School.

On weekends, Mr. Gonzalez would work on cars and make birria, a traditional dish from his native state of Michoacan, to earn extra money, she said.

"He was a very dedicated dad," Ms. Gomez said.

The incident is Menlo Park's first home invasion robbery in recent memory, and Mr. Gonzalez is the city's first homicide victim since 1999, said Sgt. Mike Amaral. Police are asking anyone with information to call Detective Bill Massey at 330-6363.

At the Almanac's press time Monday afternoon, funeral arrangements for Mr. Gonzalez were still pending, and his body had not yet been released from the San Mateo County Coroner's Office. The family is struggling to pay for the funeral, and Ms. Gomez said she has gotten a number of phone calls from people offering to help. Ms. Gomez can be reached at 796-0707.

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