Except for a police car awaiting a vigil of family and friends, the parking lot at Crocker Amazon Playground — four days ago the site of a double homicide — was empty Friday afternoon.
Just after 1 p.m., attendees of a vigil service for 18-year-old Kenyatta Butler Jr. and Donzel Gaines, 19, circled around the parking space where the young men lost their lives. They listened to a prayer service by the Rev. Paul Gawlowski of St. Paul of the Shipwreck church in the Bayview and recalled memories of what they said were two bright, talented athletes.
“Kenyatta, he was a sweet kid, a lovable kid, a lot of these people here are his teachers from his schools, and he loved basketball, he loved football,” DeMetria Lockridge told The San Francisco Examiner. “Kenyatta was a good kid, and I just hate that this happened to my son, and he will be missed.”
Before someone fired multiple gunshots into their tan Chevy Camaro on Monday morning, killing the two, Butler lived in Visitacion Valley with his aunt, a neighbor said, and Gaines was from the Western Addition. Though police arrested the driver of a vehicle wanted in connection with the shooting Wednesday, the double homicide remains under investigation and no suspects have been charged in connection to their deaths.
Lisa Bishop, one of Butler’s former teachers, said Butler attended Washington High School, and before that a small K-8 school in the Excelsior, with her son. The two would skateboard together at the skate park adjacent to the parking lot where he died, she said.
“A whole bunch of us helped raise him with his mom and his sister and his step-dad,” Bishop said. “He was an amazing young man. He had a huge future ahead of him. He liked to learn. He liked to dance.”
Gaines graduated from John O’Connell High School last year, said Public Defender's Office social worker Alfredo Bojorquez.
“Donzel was a very bright young man, contagious smile, tremendous athlete and academically he was shining,” said Bojorquez. “He had a lot of challenges with family dynamics. Denzel had a great opportunity to live with his grandmother in Contra Costa but he wanted to live in The City.”
His older brother, Jamal Gaines, was killed in an unsolved 2013 shooting in San Francisco. Another brother lost a leg to gun violence, those close to him said.
Though members of Gaines’ family were not at the vigil service, a number of workers from the department and Sunset Youth Services, which provides music programs for sometimes troubled youth, arrived to remember Gaines.
“A lot of people knew Donzel,” said Ron Stueckle, who works at Sunset Youth Services. “There’s a few people in the youth services world around The City that everybody loves. I can think of like three or four, and Donzel was one of them.”
Those close to them said Butler and Gaines were talented football and basketball players. Gaines also dabbled in music at the Sunset Youth Services, which served as a recording studio for him.
Carolyn West, Butler’s grandmother, said the community needs to pull together as they would have in the past, back when you could safely leave your doors open and walk all over the projects.
“Kenyatta was not a bad kid, he was a good boy,” West said at the vigil. “But kids get caught up with other people, sometimes people have influences that they don’t understand.”