Members of the Richmond community gathered at two vigils held mere blocks from each other last night, at the locations where two young men were fatally shot in separate incidents earlier this week.
At approximately 11:00 a.m. on Monday, 29-year-old father of two Javonte Prothro was shot multiple times while in his car at the corner of 47th Street and Carlson Boulevard. Twelve hours later, 18-year-old Otilio Martinez was gunned down while walking home from work on the 5100 block of Bayview Avenue.
The shootings followed on the heels of two other shootings that occurred in Richmond on Friday: one injured a 25-year-old man and a 16-month-old toddler downtown Friday morning, and one in the Hilltop area resulted in the death of 17-year-old Chrisean Nealy Friday night.
At the vigil for Martinez on Tuesday, family and friends embraced in front of the Zion Hill Missionary Baptist Church on Bayview Avenue in south Richmond. The makeshift shrine on the sidewalk was surrounded by chalk circles drawn by police to mark the locations of about 40 casings and bullet holes.
Gonzalo Rucobo, founder of Bay Area Peacekeepers, a Richmond-based organization that serves youth and families affected by gangs and gun violence, said that Martinez, whom he had known for years, was a “good kid” who had a loving relationship with his family, “didn’t hang around the wrong crowd,” and was attending Contra Costa College.
At the vigil for Prothro, less than half a mile away, family and friends described a man who came from a loving family and had a great sense of humor. “He was just a funny person,” said Anna Martin, who had known Prothro since he was a boy, “always laughing and making jokes.”
Eastshore Neighborhood Council Vice President Timothy Walker and long-time Ceasefire participant Dewanda Joseph gathered the half-dozen community members at Prothro’s vigil to pray.
“We are tired of all this killing, Lord,” said Walker. “We need love.”
Richmond’s homicide count for this year has now reached 21, which was last year’s total.
In a press release, Richmond police said they do not believe the shootings of the past few days are connected.
Some members of the community expressed concerns that the shootings are tied to gang activity and longstanding disputes.
“We have some neighborhoods that are getting into it with each other again,” said Rucobo.
Speaking on Monday afternoon in response to that morning’s shooting, Lieutenant Andre Hill of the Richmond Police Department said it was too early to tell whether the recent shootings were gang related.
But, he said, the Richmond police believe many shootings are retaliatory, and that “sometimes these retaliatory shootings go back months and sometimes years.” On Tuesday, police department Public Information Officer Sergeant Nicole Abetkov said that Chief Allwyn Brown would not issue a statement on the shootings.
Rucobo said many youth experience hurt, trauma and anger that can manifest in violence if left unaddressed. He and Walker called for more services for youth, including job training and psychological support programs.
At the vigil for Martinez, Alicia Gonzalez, one of Otilio Martinez’s aunts, pulled a casing out of her pocket; two of Martinez’s young cousins had found it in the grass nearby.
“It’s just senseless,” she said.
“When the rain comes and the blood stain is gone,” said Rucobo, the grief and pain continue.