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Family of brothers slain in Black Friday shooting at Arden Fair speak out

Sacramento Bee - 11/29/2020

Nov. 29--The family of two teenagers killed during a Friday shooting inside the Arden Fair mall spoke out on Saturday during a tearful vigil service.

The two victims were brothers: 19-year-old Dewayne James Jr. and 17-year-old Sa'Quan Reed-James. Family and friends gathered at the mall at 6 p.m. to pay respects and ask the community to step forward with information and demand more resources for the community's Black youth amid the coronavirus pandemic.

"We just want justice," said the teens' aunt, Sharron Jackson.

James had recently graduated Rio Americano High School, while Reed-James was still attending the Arden Arcade school, where he played football and was active in the school's Black youth group.

They, along with two brothers, ages 19 and 13, had gone to the mall for a bit of Black Friday shopping after Thanksgiving.

The shopping mall erupted in gunfire Friday night just after 6 p.m. and the teens were shot near the mall's southwest entrance.

James was pronounced dead at the scene, while Reed-James was taken to UC Davis Medical Center, where he died several hours later. Family members, standing feet from where the attack happened, said the other 19-year-old brother shielded his 13-year-old sibling as they both escaped without injuries.

Several prominent community advocates spoke on behalf of the family, including the brothers' mother and father and the younger victim's girlfriend, among others from the teens' school and church groups.

Leia Schenk, founder of Empact; Allegra Tayor, founder of The Village Advocates of Sacramento; and Jamilia Land, a local activist with ties to the James family, all spoke at the vigil.

"Whoever is out there who did this, may God have mercy on your soul," Land said, holding back tears. "Four boys left home yesterday. Two returned."

A mall employee told The Sacramento Bee that he heard two shots at first before a flurry of others broke loose. All told, around eight to 12 shots went off before crowds of shoppers began fleeing the mall.

Arden Fair reopened Saturday morning at 10 a.m., mere hours after the fatal shooting.

The suspect, believed to be a man in his 20s, remains at large. Police have given few details but said they are working to make an arrest using surveillance footage captured by mall cameras and witness statements.

"It's time for the community to stand up, take back our community, teach our children different," Land said. "Give them something other than guns and rap music to pick up and follow behind."

To her, that means more involvement from civic leaders and local advocacy groups, especially in Black communities.

The family of the boys moved to Sacramento in 2018 from Monroe, Louisiana, according to Schenk. They had been seeking a safer area to live in. "This family did everything they were supposed to do ... only to come here to be gunned down anyway."

Berry Accius, a prominent Sacramento-area activist who was in contact with the family on Friday, described the shooting as an isolated incident and a targeted attack.

Earlier in the day in a social media post, Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg implied that the shooting was an act of gang violence.

"This wanton shooting of young people by other young people also demands a strong proactive law enforcement response," Steinberg said. "I support our Police Department and its officers in doing whatever is legally necessary to take the guns out of the hands of teenagers. Period. I will support any effort to strengthen our gang enforcement units and hold shooters responsible for their actions."

Sacramento Police Department spokesman Officer Karl Chan said that the gunman's motive was still under investigation.

Family representatives during the vigil repeatedly refuted the shooting was motivated by gang alliances, and that the boys were "two leaders" in the San Juan Unified School District, Taylor said.

Schenk said the mall's management and community groups funded by the city and others to assist programs such as mall patrols had a responsibility to keep the area safe for shoppers without fear of gun violence.

Jackson called on Arden Fair's operators for beefed-up security measures and echoed others in saying she wanted to see greater involvement from all levels of the community to make sure tragedies don't continue to happen.

Schenk called attention to the many high-profile gun violence incidents amid the ongoing pandemic as evidence of the need for support systems and engagement with young people.

"There's been too much death here in Sacramento County in just November alone," she said. "We are calling out to everybody for help ... We need you, leaders. We need you, community."

In response to the wave of shootings, the Sacramento City Council last week committed $3 million to nonprofit groups that work with teenagers at risk of gun violence.

Still, Land said more needs to be done.

"This family will never be the same. ... This has got to end,' she said. "To those in the community who say you want peace in the streets ... 'Where is advanced peace when we need you?' Where are the other organizations who are supposed to be here watching after our children? .... Where are you when these families need help?"

Acknowledging that hundreds of shoppers were in the mall at the time, Schenk urged any and all to talk to police to make an arrest.

"There's a code in our communities to not snitch," Schenk said. "But there's another thing out here called integrity."


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