By Mike Kinney
Community members gathered at Richmond Civic Center Friday evening to grieve for the victims of a mass shooting in Richmond that killed three people and injured five others on Sunday, and to spread messages of hope for an end to the senseless violence in their city.
Roughly 40 citizens endured gusty winds at City Hall in an event that was swiftly organized by Melinda McCrary, Richmond resident and executive director of the Richmond Museum of History & Culture, and Iron Triangle Neighborhood Council President Oscar Garcia.
“The most important message of this vigil is that the people of Richmond care deeply about each other and our collective well-being,” McCrary said. “We gather to show our support for the residents of the Dunn Avenue home and all victims of violence and their families.”
The mass shooting occurred just before 11 p.m. Sunday in the 2100 block of Dunn Avenue, where a Guatemalan family was reportedly hosting a large gathering to celebrate the Marimba. Two unknown men arrived, opened fire, then fled, fatally shooting three people and injuring five others, police said. No arrests have been announced. Police believe the shooting appeared to have been targeted, but a motive hasn’t been announced.
“We cannot accept this violence as the new norm,” said Oscar Garcia. “Our vigil is to support the families and to show the community of Richmond this not what we stand for.”
Micha Vargas, a captain in the Brown Berets La Causa of the East Bay, attended the vigil in support of the community, and also to raise awareness about the unrelated case of slain Marine Brandon Alvarez. Vargas expressed hope that the tragedy on Dunn Avenue has “brought the community closer together.” Suzanne Coffee, a resident of the Santa Fe neighborhood, also joined the vigil to support the Dunn Avenue victims and over concern about rising violence.
“I came here to make an expression of hope that things will get better,” Coffee said.
The Teokalli Aztec Dance Troupe showed their support by performing at the gathering.
The mass shooting happened at a sensitive time in the community as residents were already expressing concern over the rise in violence. It also occurred just days after the Richmond Progressive Alliance-led City Council voted to defund the city’s already depleted police force by another $3 million, despite opposition from neighborhood councils.
Neighbors and community organizations are banding together to support one another. Nonprofits have been offering support to families affected by the mass shooting. The Latina Center has connected two families with resources to help pay for funeral and medical expenses, said Yenny Garcia, executive assistant to the executive director of the nonprofit organization. The Latina Center has also worked with the District Attorney’s Office to connect the families with services and resources under the Victims Assistance Program. “They also have victim advocates supporting these families,” Garcia said. The Family Justice Center in Richmond has also been offering support.
“Richmond is such a diverse city, but yet our struggles are so similar with regards to gun violence,” Yenny Garcia said. “It is important to realize we all need each other and at the end of the day Richmond is one. We will thrive when we work together and support each other. “
McCrary said she feels a lot of the violence is imported into Richmond.
“Richmond has a certain reputation and outsiders may think that makes it okay to bring trouble here,” she said. “The residents of Richmond are here to say we will no longer stand for it.”
McCrary believes residents must come together, get past political division and “find common ground to work together to make it a better place.”