Fidel Lopez was dragged from his truck, beaten and nearly killed at Florence and Normandie just minutes after the same bad luck fell on Reginald Denny, the afternoon of April 29, 1992. Lopez had gasoline poured over him as he lay on the ground and was saved from death by a pastor who told the attackers they would have to kill him too. Lopez has not been seen in the media much since then, so Times columnist Steve Lopez tracked him down. Wasn't easy.
With all the riot coverage lately, I wondered what had become of Fidel Lopez and why I couldn't find a single story about him after 1993. I began calling Fidel Lopezes and F. Lopezes, striking out every time.
Sandy Pina and Joe Ortiz, both of whom helped raise money for Lopez's family just after the riots, told me they had no idea where he was. Another person who helped with fundraising back then told me she thought Lopez might have died.
With help from Times researchers Robin Mayper and Kent Coloma, I got hold of some possible addresses and knocked on a door in San Pedro early Tuesday. There was no answer, and the neighbors had never heard of Fidel. I had two more addresses to try, the first in Torrance. I knocked, and a gray-haired gentleman promptly answered.
"Fidel?" I asked.
"Yes," he said.
"Fidel Lopez, from the riots?"
"Please come in," he said, smiling, as if he'd been waiting a long time for a visit.