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San Jose Vigil Held To Remember Victims Of Recent Violence

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San Jose Police investigators mark evidence at the scene of a shooting on South King Road, August 23, 2012. (CBS)

San Jose Police investigators mark evidence at the scene of a shooting on South King Road, August 23, 2012. (CBS)

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SAN JOSE (CBS SF) — San Jose City and community leaders joined people seeking an end to violence for a prayer vigil outside city hall Monday evening.

“No more bloodshed, no more tears,” was the chant a number of activists repeated as they held signs saying, “enough is enough” and “stop violence” to passing traffic on East Santa Clara Street. A number of cars honked in support.

As the prayer vigil began around 7 p.m., the crowd formed a large circle that flanked the edges of the City Hall courtyard.

San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed, police Chief Chris Moore, fire Chief William McDonald, three City Council members, representatives of the Mayor’s Gang Prevention Task Force, and community leaders gathered in a smaller, inner circle and addressed the crowd one-by-one with a megaphone.

“There’s a lot of pain here, I know. But there’s also a lot of love…we’re going to pull together and come together a stronger community,” City Councilman Sam Liccardo said to the crowd.

Chief Moore echoed sentiments of cooperation, saying, “remember that we’re one community unified against violence,” before asking members of the crowd for their help in solving crimes.

“Please call us…the information you provide today may solve a crime tomorrow,” Moore said.

After prayers led by Pastor Sonny Lara and his son Israel Lara of Star of David Ministries, a church known for its outreach to at-risk San Jose youth, the members of the crowd lit candles.

Monica Mendoza was next to speak. Her brother, 21 year-old Victor Mendoza was shot on August 13, the same day another man was fatally shot and a woman was fatally stabbed. After being hospitalized, Mendoza died in the hospital on August 15, police said.

“He was innocent,” Mendoza said of her brother. “I don’t wish this on anybody. It’s the worst pain.”

The father of 18-year-old Armando Miguel Heredia, who became the city’s most recent homicide victim after being fatally shot on Thursday night, was also at the vigil. He wore a t-shirt that displayed a photo of his son with his dates of birth and death, but declined to comment.

The evening vigil follows a string of violent crimes that have occurred in the month of August, including eight violent deaths in the past two weeks.

On Friday, city and county officials gathered after the bimonthly meeting of the Mayor’s Gang Prevention Task force to announce the allocation of $800,000 from the city’s budget to cover the overtime fees needed to deploy an additional 17 police officers who would otherwise be assigned to non-violent units such as K-9 and burglary.

According to Moore, the lack of more homicides over the weekend is a sign that the extra police deployment is paying off, though he noted, “it’s a temporary solution.”

Since hearing in recent months that the police force is understaffed, Moore said, the city’s criminals and gang members have become more brazen and confident.

“Now they feel like they’re not gonna get stopped,” Moore said.

On Friday, city spokeswoman Michelle McGurk noted that despite the recent surge in violence, San Jose actually has less annual homicides than other Bay Area cities with smaller populations, including San Francisco and Oakland.

Regarding Monday evening’s vigil, Moore said, “I’ve never seen this kind of support.”

Before dispersing to light candles, the crowd recited an oath with hands raised in the air. Kathleen Flynn of the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Association of Santa Clara Valley led the pledge.

“I promise to be a good neighbor… a good parent… and a good friend to the city of San Jose,” the crowd recited.

(Copyright 2012 by CBS San Francisco and Bay City News Service. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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