Richmond’s 37th Homicide
on October 28, 2009
We read about murder in the paper and watch reports of homicide on television. These stories are likely the only coverage of the crimes we’ll see. What happens to the families of murder victims as they resume their lives in the weeks after the crime remains unreported, their pain undocumented.
Family and friends of murder victim Kaneesha Mallard struggled for answers at a press conference held four days after her death. Mallard, 19, and her companion, Alfred Thomas, 20, were struck with gunfire at a gas station at Carlson Boulevard and Imperial Avenue at 9:30 on a Friday night. Both died on the scene, bringing the number of homicides at that point in Richmond to 38.
The shock and the wound were still fresh as they gathered to make a plea, for help in finding Kaneesha’s murderer, and for peace, to spare other families the pain they felt.
“We want justice,” Kizzy Hamilton, 26, Mallard’s sister, told reporters at the gas station where her sister was shot. She stood with three of her surviving sisters, each holding up a photo of Mallard.
The Mallard and Hamilton sisters grew up attending church, Kizzy said, speaking after the press conference. Around her, people signed a memorial poster with a photo of Kaneesha. “We just tried to live a normal life,” Kizzy said. The family lived in Hercules and socialized mostly with each other growing up, she added.
“[Kaneesha] wasn’t into gangs or violence, because she knew better,” Kizzy said. “She was, I guess, at the wrong place at the wrong time.”
The community representatives supporting the family wondered why they lived in a fear and isolation they say is unknown in surrounding cities.
“There’s no homicides that take place in El Cerrito. There’s no homicides that take place in Pt. Richmond,” said Pastor Wyndford Williams of All Nations Church Of God In Christ. “But in the Iron Triangle and on the South Side we have multiple tragedies that take place on a regular basis.”
Tracy Reed, 42, Kaneesha’s second cousin, said that she shared Pastor Williams’ frustration. She did not single out the police for blame, though she expressed her disappointment with how crime is handled in Richmond.
“I think the police are overwhelmed. I think it’s hard to be in so many different places,” she said. Reed, who works for a charitable organization in Richmond and lives in the city, wonders if religion isn’t the answer to Richmond’s problems.
“I think as a predominantly African American community, I think the churches need to come together,” Reed said. “Forget about denomination. Let’s get out there and try to be more active in the community.”
Mayor Gayle McLaughlin, who stood with the family at the press conference, attested to the police department’s commitment to find Kaneesha’s killer. McLaughlin also mentioned the city’s new violence reduction plan as evidence of their commitment to Richmond residents. But like Reed, she stressed the need for solving the long-term problems that create crime to keep people safe, rather than seek justice after they’ve been killed.
“We need to develop pathways out of poverty so people are not faced with this desperation and this hurt and pain,” McLaughlin said.
Talk of long-term solutions is likely cold comfort to the family, who recently lost another member to gun violence. Derrick Rogers, 33, Kaneesha and Kizzy’s cousin, died one week after Kaneesha. His death brings Richmond’s homicide rate to 39. Both murders remain unsolved.
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