Friday, May 29, 2009

Update and Help Desperately Needed

The witness family has been promised some, but not enough money from the DA's office. If anyone is reacting with "Why are my tax dollars paying for this?" or "Why does the DA's office have responsibility to do this?" (which I hope they are not,) keep in mind that the reason they are in danger is because of the brilliant brilliant police of this fair city, which are fully living up (or down) to their reputation. The reasons the kids are in danger are:

1. The police didn't do anything when the kids' mom called six months ago because one of the suspects in Joshua's killing was threatening her son with a gun. They came to the house and told her "If no one is dead, we can't do anything." Interesting. Now someone is dead. Really? We had to wait for that?

2. After the shooting, the police took the witnesses down the street and had them point out the house where the suspects lived. The whole family (of the suspects) saw exactly who they are.

Like I said, brilliant.

Anyway. I spent half of yesterday at the DA's office with their mom, who we'll call "Rosa." My friend Warren spent the other half helping Rosa find a hotel that took cash and look for housing. He took the day off and did it again today.

Where we are:

Rosa filled out an application for an apartment in a safe neighborhood, and we're anxiously waiting for the landlord to get back to us. He knows this is time-sensitive. If this is finalized before 4:00 and the landlord signs the papers, Rosa can rush back to the DA's office and get the $1800 they're giving her in a check made out to the landlord. Then the family will have a place to stay through July at least.

Two problems:

1. If the landlord does not get back to Rosa before 4:00, the family has to stay in hotels all weekend. They can't afford this (got $200 from the DA's office for hotels and food, which lasted two nights. Since they don't have any more money, they will have to go back to their homes, which are NOT safe places right now.

2. If the landlord DOES get back to her, she collects the $1800 from the DA's office and is still $800 short for first and last month's rent and a deposit. I wish I had the money to cover them but I don't. We're waiting for Catholic charities, and I have a couple of friends who are sending some money. If anyone wants to help, PLEASE contact me right away. If you pray, please pray.

If this all works out, then they've got till July 31 to figure something out.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Not the Post I Wanted to Write

I was going to write a very different post.

I was going to write about a fun outing from last weekend.

On Sunday, May 17, a friend and I took some kids to the Greek Festival in Oakland. These are the kids we spend time with; brothers from the school I used to work at. I'm calling them "Jorge" and "Luis." Jorge (the older who was doing so well in school recently - got his grades up from a 0.0 to a 2.25, which is no small feat in two months) came last year and ate everything in sight. The food is really really good at the Greek Festival.

Sadly, Jorge couldn't come because his dad got arrested and he had to go see him. Have I mentioned that this kid has been trying to take care of his whole family as long as I've known him? But Luis could come and asked us to bring his friend Joshua. We brought Joshua, who ate everything in sight (Luis was being a picky eater) and chatted the whole time.

I remembered Joshua (an 8th grader) from when he went to our school. He was a bit of a troublemaker and had gotten arrested this year and had a probation officer. But unlike most kids who i've known who have been in trouble, he was up front with everything. He said he was stupid to do it and that he was learning not to hang around with people who did stupid stuff. He told us about what crack had done to some of his friends and how gross it was and how he'd rather not be around it. I've worked with kids in the inner-city for over 10 years and this kid wasn't making stuff up. He wanted to turn around. He also really liked Greek food. He gave me a hug for taking him out to eat.

A week later, I was reading blogs online and found this. That's Joshua. His name was Josue, but he liked to be called Joshua or Josh. He was killed Monday night by another kid. "Jorge" and his girlfriend were walking with him right by Jorge's grandmother's house when two brothers shot at them. The rest of the story has been told to me by traumatized kids so, of course, it may be biased, but these are overall, truthful kids.

I dont' know why the brothers shot at the other three. The kids say that the younger brother (13) shot at them and missed and the older brother (17) shot Joshua. They suspect (and I know this happens a lot) that the younger one is taking the blame because he will get off easier than a 17 year old on murder. Either way, Joshua was shot. The girlfriend took off running, and Jorge tried to help his friend while running away because he was being shot at. Joshua collapsed across the street from Jorge and Luis's grandmother's house. Luis ran out of the house to see what was happening and the two of them watched one of their best friends die.

You'd think that was enough trauma for one night. I've never seen someone die, let alone violently, and I'm 33. I can't imagine what it's like for a 10 and 13 year old. But no, the lovely police department of this fair city had to do its best.

I'm not sure of the order of events, but they did two things that night. They took the kids around to the home of the suspects' to identify the suspects. Now the suspects and their family and friends know who "ratted them out." They didn't even try to conceal the kids' identities. Then they took them to the police station for hours. The shooting happened before 10 pm. The kids got home at 4 am. They were not allowed to talk to their parents (the police called the parents) or have their parents there with them.

That was Monday night. Today is Wednesday. My friend and I went to see the kids yesterday to see how they were doing - as you can imagine, not well. This morning, a police officer came with a search warrant, searched for a gun, and took Jorge away with him without letting his mother come, which I believe is a violation of his rights.

A lawyer friend who also knows the kids came and saved the day, at least temporarily, but not before Jorge was pretty scared.

I've read some of the comments on and other reportings of the story and some of them make me sick. There is a lot of "well, he lived in the ghetto, and that's what happens." I realize that a lot of kids are killed because they're into gangs or drugs. This one was walking home. I commented ("Former Oakland Teacher" if you didn't guess) but can't look at it any more; it's making me ill. How do people simply write these kids off? Is it because it's easier to do so?

It sounds morbid, but I've always wondered which kid from school would be the first to get killed. You know that's a possibility in that area. But I thought he'd be older than 13.