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"This Is Not God's Will"

Mourners gather to remember the victims of a quadruple homicide in Hayes Valley.

The march for the victims of a quadruple homicide


Last night at the African-American Art and Culture Complex, newly minted Board of Supervisors President London Breed stood looked out in front of scores of mourners, moistly black, looking stricken. The African-American political leader—who grew up in, and now represents, the Western Addition—was flanked by Chief Police Greg Suhr, community activists, and family members at a community vigil mourning the victims of Friday's quadruple homicde, the city's first in years. “I want this to stop,” Breed said. 

According to San Francisco police, the four men—Harith Atchan, 21; Yalani Chinyamurindi, 19; Manuel O'Neal, 22; and David Saucier, 20—were shot and killed Friday night while sitting in a double-parked stolen Honda at the corner of Page and Laguna, in what may have been gang-related violence. Two guns were recovered from the car. The killings were San Francisco's first of 2015; in 2014 the city reported 45 homicides, far down from a peak of 100 in 2007. Statistically speaking, these kinds of crimes are all the more shocking for the relative rarity, even in the Western Addition and Hayes Valley, which have been historically the sites of gang activity

Days after the shooting, Suhr looked shaken as he told the crowd, which included Supervisor Scott Wiener and Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi, “Please, no more.” His plea was echoed by religious leaders and others who had lost family members to gun violence. “My nephew was not a thug or a gangster. He made a mistake,” said one of the victim's family members, a reverend. “This is not God’s will.” The crowd cheered in response. The speakers included several men who had grown up in the neighborhood and either escaped violence or reformed themselves, including boxer Karim Mayfield and Shawn Richard, the head of Brothers Against Gun Violence, who asked, ““How can we love God and we’ve never seen him before, but hate our brothers who we see every day?”

After an hour of speeches, mourners marched half a mile through Hayes Valley to the scene of the crime. A white man in the front began playing guitar and singing “We Shall Overcome.” After the first verse, a dozen people were singing along with him. On the back of his backpack was pinned a quote from Nelson Mandela. As we passed the corner of Laguna and Fell, a group of African-American women—the mourners were overwhelmingly women—start chanting “All Lives Matter” while diners at Il Borgo and Domo look on from behind plate glass.

At the scene of the shooting, which shares an intersection with the San Francisco Zen Center and the high-end tea shop Samovar, a makeshift memorial, with candles and a poster reading the names of the men, had already been erected.

The mother of one of the victims, Asale-Haqueenyah Chandler, told the crowd that her son, Chinyamurindi, had been working at a Benihana, and moments before the killing called her to tell her that he was cashing one of his first paychecks. “He was beautiful. And they killed my son. The only thing he had on him was a cell phone.” A monk from the Zen Center, wearing robes and a shaved head, bent to light a candle for a young African American boy.

Another family member spoke, but it was hard to make out what she saying, and she ends up wailing. She moved away from the candles, found her mother, and collapsed into her arms, sobbing uncontrollably. A tall white man with frizzy hair and long sideburns elbowed through the crowd around them and said, “I hear you. I want to help.” She didn't notice. He repeated himself and tried to hand her his card; he was either a lawyer or an activist or both. More people come forward and get the mother and daughter to walk down the hill, away from the crowd. He followed, all the while trying to pass a business card to her. The sobs were audible long after the women were out of sight. I stepped around the corner to find space to take notes. As I leaned against the building, talking into my recorder, half a dozen young African-American men—maybe high school aged—stood near me, wearing lanyards with laminated photos of the four victims around their necks. 

The rally ended with raw grief and a prayer. Suhr hung back near a police cruiser parked next to Samovar. Ross Mirkarimi talked to people near the memorial. Breed remained at the memorial long after I leave. 


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