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Redlands Walk For Unity And Healing Draws Crowd

By Chris Levister –

Cops, clergy, elected leaders, ordinary folk, they came in droves, on foot, in strollers, wheelchairs and skateboards to this Redlands neighborhood where six days ago shots rang out mortally wounding teens Andrew Jackson and Quinn McCaleb and injuring two others.

Some knew the boys, others just wanted an outlet for emotions they felt in the wake of the Jan. 5 shootings. In all, about 1,000 marchers gathered at the intersection of Post and Sun Streets to send a message of unity, remembrance and healing.

“We’ve come to send a message that this town will fight back – We will turn away the violence and create good from evil,” organizer the Rev. Felix Roger Jones III, pastor of All People Unity Baptist Church said standing in the shadow of a fence still smeared with blood.

“The loss of any of our children shall be felt by all of us,” said Police Chief Jim Bueermann.

“We are here hand in hand – as one to say violence will not be tolerated in this town,” The prayer vigil and march called “Heal the Land; Heal the City lumbered passed the Cinnamon Creek apartments where the teens were shot…pass stucco houses where residents sat on front porches.

Paula Espinoza stood behind a chain-link fence - she clutched a rosary and sobbed. “I knew those boys. They didn’t deserve to die,” she said.

Some walkers held hands other held candles. Linda Forshaw of Mentone carried a sign: Mentone Walks and Prays with You.

A sign held by a woman in a wheelchair invoked the ideals of Dr. Martin Luther King: “We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.”

Quinn McCalbe’s parents Shanita Williams and David McCaleb walked alongside family members, neighbors, city leaders and strangers, singing and praying for the city.

“My child didn’t die in vain, McCaleb said responding to the outpouring. “I feel the love of this community. I feel the unity.”

“My son’s murder must and will effect lasting change,” said Williams holding a small bouquet of flowers.

The marchers spanned several blocks west on Sun, north on Herald Street, south on Oxford where the the walk concluded in front of Micah House’s Chapel Street location.

“The mission of Micah House is to be a safe haven – a place to move from violence to peace,” said Dianna Lawson, program coordinator at Micah House.

Lt. Travis Martinez said the police department joined forces with the Cops and Clergy Network to organize the prayer walk.

Looking out on the crowd, Martinez said “This outpouring is evidence that a vast majority of those in our community want to live in harmony together.”

“Regret for evil can become a powerful tool for change,” said Gwen Lewis of Redlands, Andrew Jackson’s aunt.

As dark fell on the crowd many lit candles and stood hands raised. Some cried openly as Redlands officer belted out the hymn “What About the Children.”

Mayor Pete Aguilar emphasized the importance of working together. “As you move forward from this, I pray that we move forward together, as we walked here together.”

Redlands police have released a sketch of a young Latino suspect. No arrests have been made. “Let us not lose sight of why we started where we did tonight,” said Lt. Chris Catren, who is leading the Redlands police investigation. “With your help there will be justice,” he said. The crowd applauded.

Father Michael Fincher of Trinity Episcopal Church urged participants to visit makeshift prayer booths erected at the Micah site.

“The event of six days ago shows us that we still have a broken and hurting world,” he said.

“If we can through prayer and example shine Christ’s light a little brighter and spread that light to our friends and foes, maybe those boys will not have died in vain.”

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