Redlands Heals In Glare Of Spotlight
By Chris Levister –
To know Andrew Jackson was to love him, friends and family said during a wake Tuesday for Jackson one of two teenagers gunned down in Redlands on January 5.
He was a lover of life, basketball, his family and his grandmother's sweet potatoes. He dreamed of college and all the possibilities that might have gone with it.
The bodies of 17-year-old Quinn McCaleb and 16-year-old Jackson are now at rest. But it's clear from the words spoken at their funerals, and from the number of people who were there to pay their final respects, that their deeds in life and their tragic deaths will have a lasting impact on the Redlands community, their friends, family, teammates, and law enforcement circles in general for some time.
"We have seen a marvelous miracle," Redlands Police Chief Jim Bueermann said of how the violent Jan 5 attack on five teenagers in North Redlands threatened to tear the fabric of a city better known for its educated populace, orange groves and quiet streets lined with century-old Victorian homes, it’s Thursday market night staged in its old fashioned downtown. “This tragedy has brought so many people together in search of understanding, healing and comfort,” said Bueermann.
Jackson was laid to rest on Wednesday. The events surrounding the shootings drew headlines as far away as Sacramento and Mexico City. Tuesday hundreds came to pay their respects at his wake held in the University of Redlands Memorial Chapel.
Classmate Kanisha Lloyd wept openly as she touched Jackson’s body dressed in a paisley tie and blue shirt. “Blue was his favorite color,” she said.
“It’s like on January 6 we all woke up and realized our innocence had been stolen,” said 16- year-old Angel Martinez standing in a huddle of teens outside the chapel.
Lloyd and Martinez were among the mourners who filed past Jackson’s steel blue casket draped with a spray of powder blue and white flowers.
“I think Andrew and Quinn would have been proud of Redlands. We’ve come together in the glare of the spotlight,” said Paul Gonzales, a Redlands high school senior and football player.
“Everybody is trying to say this is about gangs, but those kids were not gang members. We are a community of love, and it's important to remember that during these times we are all together, and that we all care about each other," said Gonzales.
Quinn’s father David agreed to a point. “We’ve got to do more to address issues of race and culture,” he said. “We have to tackle the tough issues that drive crime and intolerance. Peace is not merely an absence of crime. It is also a state of mind,” he said.
The violent deaths are a call to work for peace in the community, Pastor Bryant Kennedy of the Mount Zion Baptist Church in Ontario said Saturday at the funeral for Quinn McCaleb.
“The peace of our community has been broken,” Kennedy told an estimated 800 people who attended the funeral held at Cathedral of Praise in Rialto.
“The brutal shootings left an Oxford Drive neighborhood in shock,” he said. “The blood stains on those streets and lawns are a constant reminder that Redlands is a city changed forever.”
The teens who are all Black were shot by what police believe was a Latino gunman who stalked them and opened fire on four of them. Jackson and McCaleb were killed. Jordan Howard was shot in the head and Tequan Roberson in the leg. Both are recovering. A fifth youth escaped unharmed.
As of Wednesday, police had made no arrests. They have received thousands of tips and interviewed hundreds of people. In recent years Redlands has struggled with budget troubles. Deep cuts have reduced the number of sworn officers from 90 to 74 and slashed many after school recreation programs and services once standard fare for young people.
The outdated downtown shopping mall is shuttered. The city’s main library was forced to cut its hours.
Still the response to the shootings was as many longtime residents described - “in your face” swift, and communitywide. Within hours of the shootings, Bueermann who officially retired Dec. 31 but is staying on for another six months while a successor is chosen, reorganized the department to focus more than 50 officers on the investigation.
Grief counselors were dispatched to the scene of the tragedy, local schools and community centers. Investigators turned to social networking and electronic communication outlets to get the word out about the crime and to solicit information. Prayer and candle vigils were held around the city.
By week’s end, city churches and the Police Department had organized a vigil and prayer walk called “Heal the Land; Heal the City”. The event drew more than 800 people including a family who reportedly drove from Fort Campbell, Kentucky.
“It’s like we’re all living out loud,” said Pastor Kennedy. He cited attacks nationwide, including the one on Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords in Tucson that left her and a dozen others wounded and six dead.
“After the news reporters and live cams trucks disappear the attention will of course die down – but the hard work of healing and bringing justice is just beginning” said Bueerman.
“We’re not going to be turned aside by thoughts of the past and fear of the future,” he said. We’re not going to stop trying to be a model for civility, safety and justice. We’re a changed city now – We’ve changed for the better.”
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