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flowers for the dead and mayor mclaughlin in background

Remembering those lost, vowing to improve

on December 9, 2010

Each December, Gayle McLaughlin uses her monthly “meet-with-the-mayor” event at the city library to gather with residents and remember the lives lost to local violence over the past year.

This year, the solemn reminiscences came amid an unmistakable mood of optimism. While 21 people were slain in Richmond during the first 11 months of this year, the number represented a dramatic improvement over last year, which saw 47 homicides.

“All throughout this year, we’ve been talking about making gains, reducing crime and violence in our city, and that’s true, the progress is real,” McLaughlin told a dozen residents and city staff members, all seated in a circle. “But this night remembering the 21 lives lost in the city of Richmond reminds us just how much work we have to do.”

The Dec. 3 gathering included a brief address by McLaughlin followed by more than an hour of testimonials by other attendees. The group included Chaplin Jerome Smith of Doctors Medical Center in San Pablo and newly-elected Councilwoman Javonka Beckles.

mclaughlin embraces mother of richmond homicide victim

McLaughlin embraces Faisa Ayyad, whose son was killed in June in a case of mistaken identity.

Only one family member of a homicide victim attended. Asama Naim Ayyad, 20, was shot and killed June 25 while driving his car near the corner of 22nd Street and Bissell Avenue. Police have said the shooters mistook Ayyad’s car for someone else’s.

“I lost my son five months ago to (a case of) mistaken identity,” said Ayyad’s mother, Faisa, choking back sobs and burying her face in her hands. “It’s hard for me to accept.”

While Police Chief Chris Magnus has noted that violent crime rates have steadily fallen over the past 4 years, homicide rates have been more volatile.

In 2007, 47 homicides were recorded, a total that plummeted to 27 in 2008 before spiking again last year.

As is common for the city’s street violence, it has taken a disproportionate toll on young African American men and boys. Ten of the 21 killings have been African American males under the age of 30. Fifteen of the 21 victims were African Americans and five were Latinos. Ayyad’s family came from Palestine.

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