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Dale Soto, San Pedro High 16-Year-Old, Killed by Friend Joseph Hecker in Shotgun 'Accident'

If what 18-year-old Joseph Hecker says is true, the San Pedro High School student made the biggest mistake of his life yesterday: He answered the front door with a shotgun.

The boy on his doorstep (in the 900 block of West Basin Street) was 16-year-old Dale Soto, a close friend of Hecker's who was home-schooled through San Pedro High. The Daily Breeze reports that the two teens "played video games, shared dinner at each other's houses, and rode skateboards in their San Pedro neighborhood."

But Tuesday at 3 p.m., Hecker was instead hunched over his friend's body...

... trying in vain to revive him after discharging the shotgun he was holding into Soto's chest.

He later told detectives that the fatal blast was accidental. And, most amazingly, Soto's family appears to be behind Hecker 100 percent: "It was completely accidental," Soto's cousin Michael Wu told the Daily Breeze. "The Soto family is in complete support of Joey."

Accounts of the crime scene are heartbreaking:

"All I heard was this big boom," said a neighbor who did not want to be identified. "It was really loud."

Neighbors ran out of their homes to help. Becker was on his phone, panicked and calling 911, and pressing on his friend's chest.

"I think he was in shock," the neighbor said.

Dale lay on the ground, covered in blood.

"He was gasping for air," she said. "His eyes were glossy."

Soto died at a nearby hospital soon after.

According to the Daily Breeze, Hecker was playing hooky Tuesday after sleeping over at Soto's house Monday night. They had been hanging out earlier in the day as well.

Why Hecker was holding a shotgun when he opened the door, and how he got a hold of it in the first place, remains a mystery.

In the meantime, he's been arrested for murder and placed under impossible $1 million bail. Which begs the question: Is a lifetime of guilt and regret punishment enough for shooting your best friend to death?

[@simone_electra/swilson@laweekly.com]


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