Hundreds of students, coaches and other community members gathered outside of City Hall in Richmond tonight for a rally to honor 16-year-old Richmond High School basketball player Rodney Frazier, who was shot and killed in front of his North Richmond home last Friday. A sea of candles illuminated the faces of students, some who held banners with Rodney’s photo or slogans demanding “Peace for Richmond” and “Justice for Rodney” as they called for an end to the violence plaguing the community.
The 16-year-old was riding his motorbike in front of the home he shared with his grandfather in the 300 block of Market Avenue around 9:20 p.m. Friday when suspects fired over 20 rounds, including a fatal hit to the chest, according to Contra Costa County sheriff’s officials. Sheriff’s Office spokesman Jimmy Lee said the boy was in the “wrong place at the wrong time” when he was killed and had no gang ties or known enemies. No arrests have been made in connection with the killing and no suspect information is available, Lee said. Rodney’s death is North Richmond’s fourth homicide this year and came days after four other teens were wounded in shootings in Richmond, where 13 people have been murdered this year.
A 29-year-old El Cerrito man was killed in Richmond less than an hour after the teen’s murder, according to police. Attendees at tonight’s rally were reminded that Rodney was much more than another sad statistic. “Rodney was the perfect kid – he went to class, he played ball and he stayed out of trouble,” senior Richmond High basketball player Marquette Davenport said. “Even though he was younger than me, I still looked up to him.” The teen helped lead the Richmond High Oilers basketball team as a point guard and was “the heart and soul” of the team, Richmond High basketball Coach Robert Collins said. In addition to basketball, he loved motorbikes and was an aspiring mechanic.
He also volunteered for Urban Tilth, a Richmond-based sustainable agriculture organization that works with schools and residents to plant community gardens. He was a big brother figure to many of the younger boys in his North Richmond neighborhood, including several elementary school students who witnessed him die, according to Collins. “There is no way on this green earth in America that 10 through 12 year-old boys should have to watch one of their role models take a bullet and die in his front yard!” the coach told the crowd. Allocco, one of several East Bay coaches who organized the rally along with Collins, told the crowd that rather than another senseless tragedy, Rodney’s death should be a “catalyst for change.”
“No 16-year-old should have to worry about being gunned down simply standing in front of their home, and that is why we are all collectively outraged and saddened,” Richmond police Chief Chris Magnus said. “But we need to be more than saddened, we need to be moved to action.” He urged attendees to look to the approaches that have been proven to reduce violence. Providing more alternatives to gangs for the community’s youth, from sports and after-school programs to organizations like Urban Tilth, is a huge part of reducing crime, the chief said.
Also key are maintaining police staffing levels and crime intervention strategies like community policing and the Richmond Police Department’s Ceasefire program, which provides job training, education and work programs for former violent offenders and those at risk of becoming violent criminals, Magnus said. Police and city leaders have credited those strategies with helping to drastically reduce Richmond’s violent crime rate in recent years – from 47 murders and a reputation as one of America’s most dangerous cities in 2007 to 16 murders in 2013.
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