Mayor Gayle McLaughlin’s eyes welled with tears Friday night as she paid tribute to the 16 people killed in Richmond this year.
“These were living, breathing people,” she said during a Friday night ceremony in the city library’s Madeline F. Whittlesey Community Room.
“The sadness is overwhelming, but the memory lives on.”
McLaughlin, who holds monthly public meetings with residents, dedicates the last meeting each December to memorializing the year’s slaying victims.
McLaughlin, gathered with a handful of residents and press, read from a Richmond Police list the names and ages of the homicide victims in chronological order of their deaths: William Wheeler, 26; Lincoln Plair, 20; Dimarea Young, 19; James Tucker, 29; Airian Holly, 16; Mercedes Williams, 19; Roy Hill III, 22; Rodel Sarmiento, 43; Juan Medrano, 20; Bonnita Todd, 64; Jose Garcia, 53; Stacy Marshall, 51; Faheim Smith, 31; Derrick Wilson, 21; Larry Kittleson, 49; and Samuel Morales, 23.
The mayor then asked for a moment of silence to “remember these 16 individuals in our hearts knowing that we lost them too soon.”
Homicides in Richmond decreased in 2013 from 18 in 2012. The annual totals represent steep drops from just a few years ago, when annual killing totals routinely reached the 40s, and spates of gunfire between rival neighborhoods would grip the city for weeks at a time.
“We know we’re moving in the right direction, but we have this memorial service, this small, little reflection time to remember each life lost,” McLaughlin said.
She said Richmond’s residents deserve special credit for helping reduce violence in the city.
“The community really understands that they way to build peace is … by holding hands and saying, ‘we’re for one another. We’re for our neighborhoods,’” she said.
A 17th homicide victim, Raymond Harris, 34, of San Pablo was shot and killed at the Richmond BART station in March. The station is not considered part of Richmond Police’s jurisdiction.