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Gunfire disrupted Richmond homecoming, not school spirit

on October 31, 2012

In the week after gunshots disrupted Richmond High School’s homecoming events, school officials, police and parents said they were glad the situation wasn’t worse.

Eight minutes were left in the football game against the Kennedy Eagles when a gun was fired near 23rd and Maricopa just beyond school property. After responding to the scene, police made the decision to stop the game and the homecoming dance. Students who had just arrived in their finest dress were held in the gym while they waited for their parents to escort them off school property.

No one was hurt and police are still investigating the case.

“The school is very fortunate and very grateful that nothing bad happened,” said Assistant Principal Kibby Kleiman. “Ultimately at the end of the evening, there were no injuries.”

In the days leading up to the game, social media helped school officials and police become aware of heightened tensions between North and South Richmond, a street rivalry that had potential to spill into the homecoming events. RPD Detective Nicole Abetkov, who is investigating the case, said police have a good idea who was involved in the gunshots. Abetkov noted that neighborhood rivalries surfacing at intra-city games are an ongoing issue. Abetkov said that some of the people involved in the incident were in school and some were not.

During the game, Richmond Coach Tashaka Merriweather said that the stands were probably “the safest place you can be in the city.” The Richmond Police Department and Bay Area Peacekeepers were both present on campus. In addition to the security team for Richmond High School, Kennedy High also assisted with security.

“We made sure to boost our normal security presence,” Kleiman said. “To be on alert, be aware, be ready to act swiftly if it looks like there’s trouble brewing … I’m sorry to say that we needed every person by the time the night was through.”

When the dance was on lock-down, Kleiman said that he was very impressed with how the students handled the night’s events “with calm and patience.”

“We’re really lucky to have the kids and adults who, in the midst of a crisis situation, reacted with steady nerves,” he said.

Still, the night’s events were nerve-wracking for parents who received calls from their kids to pick them up earlier.  When Tamisha Walker found out that gunshots had been fired near the school, she immediately drove to Richmond High to pick up her son, Youmani Mapp, 15, a sophomore.

“I was just worried,” Walker said. “I didn’t know what was going on.”

Walker said her son wasn’t even planning to go to homecoming because he knew street tensions would be high. But his friends convinced him to go because security was in full force.

As of Monday evening, Walker still had not received a phone call or any acknowledgement from Richmond High about the gunshots, she said. Walker said she’s frustrated that her best source of information about the school is her son.

“From my son, he told me how everything happened from beginning to end,” Walker said. “The only way you’re going to get the real story about Richmond High and what’s going on is if you talk to the students.”

Richmond High’s homecoming dance has been rescheduled for Nov. 9, but coaches from both teams weren’t certain whether the football game would be resumed.

“That’s the million dollar question,” Merriweather said. “We really want to finish the game.”

Friday marks the end of the regular season for both teams. If the Eagles and the Oilers were to make up the final eight minutes, which ended with the Eagles leading 16-6, the rematch would have to happen in the next day or two.

“The game isn’t finished,” Merriweather said. “There was just too much time left to say for sure [Kennedy] would have won the game.”

Kennedy Coach Mark Carminer, though, said, “There is no game to make up.”

Kennedy took home the Greenwood Trophy that goes to the winner of the Eagles-Oilers game, and Carminer said the outcome wasn’t in doubt.

“Richmond High played a great emotional game,” Carminer said, adding that he didn’t think the last eight minutes would make a difference. “We had the ball, we were getting ready to start driving down,” he said.

Carminer and Merriweather both said that the rivalry on the field is different than that on the street, and that it’s up to the coaches to separate the two.

“It’s being able to keep players in line with what their purpose is,” Merriweather said, “and that’s to play sports.”

Merriweather said it’s unfortunate that a gun went off and disturbed the homecoming events planned for the students. From his perspective, Richmond High has made great effort to reduce gang violence on school property.

“With every step forward we get, there’s an incident that happens,” Merriweather said. “It’s a process that we’re still learning.”

There are a couple takeaways from last weekend’s event, Assistant Principal Kleiman said. The homecoming game and dance will be planned on separate evenings. And the increase in security was necessary.

“There’s things that we had in place in case we had a situation,” Kleiman said. “That’s a good feeling. It gives us confidence to say that we’re going to keep our students safe.”




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