Antoine Whittley search party aims to inspire community participation

Antoine Whittley search party aims to inspire community participation
Members of a search party checked Castro Point in Richmond for any sign of missing Kennedy High student Antoine Whittley on Saturday, Feb. 27, 2021. (All photos by Mike Kinney)

By Mike Kinney

For Shurston McElroy, the disappearance of Antoine Whittley triggered a childhood trauma from when a friend and classmate went missing. For her daughter, Shurston Harris, the vanishing of Antoine hit even closer to home. She used to mentor the 17-year-old Kennedy High student at the Richmond Police Activities League.

They were among a church-organized search party that combed the remote area of Castro Point near the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge on Saturday, which did not succeed at locating Antoine, but did help rule out places where he could be found.

“It felt good to be scouring uncharted territory along the shoreline and knowing we were helping to try and make a difference,” said McElroy.

Antoine has been missing since Wednesday, Feb. 10, after a ride share driver dropped him off mid-span of the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge at about 8:30 p.m. He hasn’t been seen since. The Richmond Police Department, which does not believe foul play is involved in Antoine’s disappearance, has been searching land and water to no avail.

Meanwhile, community groups are doing all they can to keep the search going and ensure Antoine is not forgotten. McElroy and Harris were part of volunteer search team organized by the nonprofit Appointed and Anointed, Inc., that included members of Independent Holiness Church at 605 S. 16th St. in Richmond. They hiked a difficult half-mile trail to Castro Point, where they divided up into groups to search the large mudflat, shoreline and an abandoned building.

The group, which later made its way to 300 Marina Way South to join Antoine’s family in passing out flyers to passing motorists, hopes to rally members of the greater community to continue the search until Antoine is found.

Earlier in the day, the community organization Soulful Softball Sunday held a separate gathering where they planned to set off hundreds of balloons while passing out flyers.

Antoine’s mother, Tanetta Morgaine, has been appreciative of the efforts.

“She was totally excited with the fact we had gone out that far,” McElroy stated of the Castro Point search party. “The search team will continue providing whatever support the family needs until Antoine is found. It is so important to bring community awareness and continue with search efforts to bring closure.”