Community rallies for change at vigil for four Hayes Valley shooting victims

There were speeches and calls for change from one side of the Fillmore district to the other Monday night at a community gathering and vigil commemorating four young men shot to death last week.

But none of those voices matched the pained cries of the mothers, sister, aunts and uncles of the young victims who lost their lives Friday night in Hayes Valley.

The four men – Manuel O'Neal, 22; Yalani Chinyamurindi, 19; Harith Atchan, 21; and David Saucier, 20 — were shot and killed while sitting in a double-parked car, which was reported stolen, around 10 p.m. Friday, police said.

With the perpetrators of the violence still at large, Police Chief Greg Suhr said that at this point, investigators only have a few names of interest but nothing solid enough to make any arrests.

Monday night's vigil and gathering of more than 100 people began at the African American Art and Culture Complex with prayers and speeches, many pointing out that shooting deaths of young black men in San Francisco is not a new story.

From district supervisor and new board President London Breed, to a handful of preachers and local activists, a call was made to stop pointless violence and join together to mourn, even as they all admitted that such comments are being made far too often.

“We're here for healing tonight,” said Breed, who grew up in the neighborhood. But Breed, among others, could not help but point out that this kind of gathering is too common in the black community. “I want this to stop.”

Madrid Johnson, whose nephew O'Neal was one of the victims, said this was not the first time he'd been at such a gathering. “This is my third nephew that was murdered on the streets,” he said before the large gathering.

Even Suhr seemed shaken by the scale of violence. “I've been a cop for a long time — this one — I'm just saying. No more. Please,” he said to the crowd.

The hour-long gathering ended as it began – with prayer.

As Rev. Arnold Townsend gave the closing prayer, a wailing came from down the hall, cutting off his words.

“You hear that woman crying outside,” he said “One of them was her son.”

Out on the street, the vigil wound its way to the scene of the crime at the corner of Page and Laguna streets. There the crowd encircled a make-shift shrine on an electric pole and listened to several family members of the fallen speak.

“People always want to take a stand when people die,” said Takiya Chandler, of the words spoken after the death of her only brother, Chinyamurindi. “The only reason why we're out is because of death.”

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