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Otilio Martinez’s family and other community members join Tonette Mendoza at the podium as she speaks to the Richmond City Council on September 27, 2016. Photo by Lauren Schwartzman.

Community members voice concerns over recent violence

on October 3, 2016

Some groups in Richmond are coming together and others are clashing in the wake of a recent spate of shootings that has rocked the community.

Last Tuesday, family members of Otilio Martinez, 18, who was fatally shot on September 19 near his home on Bayview Avenue, gathered with other community members at Richmond City Hall to bring their concerns before the City Council and hold a candlelight vigil. On Wednesday night, many of those same community members held a second vigil outside a candidate’s forum in Point Richmond.

“We’re here to let the council see these faces,” said Gonzalo Rucobo, executive director of Bay Area Peacekeepers, to Councilmember Jael Myrick outside City Hall last Tuesday night. “This is your community, they’re real, and they’re hurting for real.”

Rucobo expressed a concern—voiced by others that night and on social media—that certain parts of Richmond receive more attention from City Council than others.

“Let something like this happen in the hills and watch an uproar of this council,” said Rucobo.

“I feel that perception,” responded Myrick, “and I know there are people who probably look at it that way.”

Inside the chamber, Tonette Mendoza, a friend of the Martinez family and long-time resident of Richmond who lost her brother to gun violence 18 years ago and whose daughter was killed in Las Vegas earlier this year, took the podium joined by close to 20 others, many holding photos and wearing t-shirts with images of loved ones lost to violence.

“We’re losing our children,” Mendoza said, her voice cracking with emotion.

City Council candidate Melvin Willis spoke about growing up in a low-income household in Richmond and seeing how a dearth of opportunities leads some people to turn to illegal activities and violence to survive.

“It’s a symptom of non-investment in our community,” he said. “If we really want a safer community, we need to invest in all the people of Richmond, and get rid of this sense of privilege.”

At the candlelight vigil held outside City Hall after the meeting, attendees said they felt Mayor Butt in particular did not pay attention to them.

In response to feeling ignored at City Hall, said Richmond resident Rodney Alamo Brown, the group created a candle-lit outline of a body—to reference Martinez’s death—on the pavement outside a candidate’s forum held in Point Richmond the following night.

Brown said the demonstration was also organized so that residents of Point Richmond could “understand the pain of the other individuals that reside in other places in Richmond.”

On Thursday night, Richmond Police identified a 20-year-old Richmond resident as a suspect in Martinez’s killing. The suspect turned himself in approximately six hours later.

Mayor Butt’s Chief of Staff, David Gray, said that the mayor is interested in forming an “Ad Hoc Committee on Violence and Race in Richmond,” in order to study these issues and their impact on Richmond residents.

Community members are calling for more mental health services, youth programs, and job opportunities, which they say will ultimately reduce gun violence in the city.

“When we start uncovering the layers of [the] onion, when we talk about systemic issues – that’s what’s plaguing this community,” said Brown to the Council last week.


  1. Linda Newton on October 4, 2016 at 1:18 pm

    Point Richmond residents do “feel the pain of other individuals that reside in other places in Richmond.” I think local newspapers and comments like this one in Richmond Confidential do the whole City a disservice by creating a division where none exists. Point Richmond by virtue of being set off from the rest of the City and of having its own downtown is in a unique situation to be a true community like the small towns of the past. It works together for its own well being but also that of the whole City. We discuss issues at our Neighborhood Council, find common cause, and support one another. We phone the police when we see suspicious activity, we speak at the City Council, and we know our neighbors. Many of the residents belong to the RPA, volunteer as coaches with Writer/Coach Connection, Saffron Strand, belong to various community organizations, and stand up for the General Plan that the whole City had participated in. In many ways we give voice to the voiceless. We are a uniting force in the City.

  2. John Spartan on October 6, 2016 at 5:40 pm

    If you have had multiple children killed by gun violence then I think that is a parenting Issue! Before blaming others start looking at what YOU are doing to keep your kids safe.

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