Mourners at the funeral of a 12-year-old San Bernardino boy Monday urged community members to take action to fight the elevated levels of violence that have rocked the struggling city in recent months.
Sixth-grader Jason Spears was shot and killed March 13 as he walked to a convenience store to buy a bag of chips. His 14-year-old cousin was wounded in the attack.
His death marked the 15th slaying in San Bernardino this year, about double the number at the same time last year. Since Jason died, two others have been killed.
“It’s time for us to take back our communities,” Pastor Joshua Beckley told the crowd of several dozen mourners, including Jason’s classmates and elementary school teachers.
Beckley said his church, Ecclesia Christian Fellowship, was looking into occupying a building in the east San Bernardino neighborhood where Jason was killed in order to offer programs and services for young people.
“I think God is trying to tell us, ‘if you don’t want no more Jasons, you better do something,’” he said.
The boy’s death drew an outpouring of grief in the city of about 210,000 residents and has drawn attention to the long-simmering problem of violence. Even before the recent spate of shootings, San Bernardino had one of the highest violent crime rates in Southern California.
Police have been hampered by budget cuts that sharply reduced staffing in the wake of the city’s 2012 bankruptcy.
In the aftermath of Jason’s death, community groups and churches have held peace walks and vigils to urge solutions.
“My brother was only 12. He was too young, the way I see it,” Jason’s brother Alexander Spears told mourners.
Family and friends recalled Jason as a silly young man who loved reenacting scenes from supernatural TV shows and playing video games.
Source: The Los Angeles Times | Paloma Esquivel