Rio graduate Dewayne James Jr., 19, and sophomore Sa’Quan Reed-James, 17, were killed in a shooting at Arden Fair Mall last Friday at 6:11 p.m., leaving a hole in the Rio community.
The brothers were accompanied on their Black Friday outing by two siblings who both escaped with no physical injuries.
Police stated in a tweet that the “the shooting resulted from a verbal altercation between two groups of people that were known to each other from prior interactions.” Video footage reviewed by the Sacramento Bee shows both parties had handguns, but the Sacramento Police Department has yet to comment on such evidence.
The victims’ family gathered the following evening to mourn the loss of their two sons and demand justice. The family was accompanied at a vigil at the mall by three spokespeople: Leia Schenk, the founder of the community organization Empact; Jamilia Land, a friend of the family and local activist; and Allegra Taylor, founder of The Village Advocates of Sacramento.
Schenk explained the three women work together across their organizations to support families in need, whether that be providing food, clothing, housing and mental health resources, or acting as a liaison with the police department.
Today the Sacramento Police Department arrested Damario Beck, 18, for the homicide. Schenk spent the day with the Reed-James family, helping them to gather more information from the police.
“That was a relief off the shoulders of the parents to know that that’s the first piece of justice,” Schenk said. “It’s difficult, though, it doesn’t bring the boys back.”
The Reed-James family recently moved to California from Louisiana, and the brothers quickly became a part of the Sacramento community.
Both James Jr. and Reed-James participated in the protest on campus last year demanding equality for Black members of the San Juan Unified School District and were active in their church. Reed-James was also a part of the football team.
LaTara Rivers, a friend from the family’s hometown, organized a GoFundMe for the boys’ mother, Shameka Reed.
“They are a part of a very large family that needs to fly out there [to Louisiana], so we need travel expenses,” Schenk said. “The GoFundMe really is the power point right now to what this family needs as far as resources go.”
Aside from donations to the GoFundMe so that the family can afford to fly the boys’ bodies to Louisiana for their funeral, they ask for the community to keep them in their prayers and share positive memories of James Jr. and Reed-James.
“Keeping them in your prayers, speaking positive memories of the boys and putting that out there with no negativity, that’s really what the family needs right now,” Schenk said.
In addition to funding the trip to Louisiana to honor the lives of the brothers, funds will be used to find the victims’ family another place to live.
“We have to get them housed, or relocated to somewhere else,” Schenk said. “It’s too difficult for them to live in that home where the boys lived and have to see their bedrooms.”
With the recent wave of gun violence among youth in the community, the Sacramento City Council pledged $3 million dollars to nonprofit organizations working to diminish the risk of gun violence in teens aged 12 to 17.
Sacramento Mayor Derrell Steinberg has spoken out about the increase in gun violence, stating in a social media post that he supports the Police Department in taking all legal measures to remove guns from teenagers’ hands.
“I will never change my belief or commitment that investing in job creation, workforce training, affordable housing, and community amenities is the ultimate answer to reducing violence in our city,” Steinberg tweeted. “This wanton shooting of young people by other young people also demands a strong proactive law enforcement response.”
Local activists aim to not only support loved ones of victims, but also to equip families with the tools to become educated community members and prevent future violence. Schenk shared that she, Taylor and Land are working to bridge the gap between families and city officials to inform families of what they can do within their own homes to prevent instances like this from occurring in the future.
“It’s not just the family of the boys that were killed, now Damario’s family is going to be grieving the loss of their son,” Schenk said. “That boy too has now lost his life to the system.”
Schenk hopes the community will recognize the need to address rising gun violence among Sacramento teens, and also take the time to share positive memories of James Jr. and Reed-James, who left behind many family members and friends.
“Even after the burial, we will still be a part of this family’s life because it doesn’t stop there,” Schenk said. “This is going to be a difficult journey for them for a while.”
You can donate to the Reed-James family GoFundMe here.