SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Six huge photographs wreathed in flowers and garlands lined a downtown street in California's capital city Wednesday, each with a small memorial of bouquets, candles and cards on a stretch of sidewalk dedicated to the six people who were gunned down last weekend in a gang dispute that turned into a mass shooting.
Candlelight vigils, somber press conferences and private moments between friends and family members have been held this week as Sacramento's downtown community struggled to comprehend the tragedy.
The violence erupted early Sunday when two groups of men connected to gangs began shooting as bars and clubs emptied out at closing time, police said. At least five gunmen sent dozens of rapid-fire gunshots into the streets and patrons fleeing in terror.
Six people were killed and 12 more suffered gunshot wounds, including two brothers who have been arrested in connection with the massacre. At least two people were still hospitalized on Wednesday.
The Sacramento County coroner identified the six people slain as: Johntaya Alexander, 21; Melinda Davis, 57; Yamile Martinez-Andrade, 21; Sergio Harris, 38; Joshua Hoye-Lucchesi, 32; and De’vazia Turner, 29.
Police on Wednesday said evidence shows at least five people opened fire in what officials called a gang-related shootout, but have not specified which gangs. Authorities have arrested the two brothers in connection with the shooting but have not disclosed their alleged roles. No one has been been charged with homicide.
Turner loved old-school R&B, a holdover from his childhood when his mother would play her favorite music while they cleaned houses. Penelope Scott said she raised him as a single mom, but said Turner was always looking out for her.
“He was a protector,” his mother, Penelope Scott, said. “Raising him as a single mom, you know, he took the role of being the man of the house. He took care of everything.”
Turner had four young children, including a 3-year-old daughter named Penelope with sticky fingers. But his bright yellow Mercedes CLS was always clean.
Born and raised in Sacramento, Turner played football from a young age until a knee injury slowed him down. He worked as a manager for an inventory company, keeping a close eye on things his mother might like and letting her know when they would go on sale.
He worked out with his dad, Frank Turner, five days a week. When they weren’t pumping iron, they were probably talking about cars. They both had old Buicks — Turner’s was a 1973 while his dad’s was a 1970 — and Turner had big plans for his. He had just ordered a new stereo and a steering wheel with a cherry wood finish.
Frank Turner said he plans to finish his son’s car, including painting it to include images of De’vazia’s face for his kids to see.
“I want them to see their daddy when they see that car,” Frank Turner said.
De’vazia Turner had visited his mother on Saturday, eating leftover pork chops and taking a shower before briefly falling asleep on her couch. When he woke up, he said he was going out — a rarity for him, because he works so much, Scott said.
Scott woke up at around 1 a.m. and couldn’t get back to sleep. She was looking at her phone when she got a call that her son had been killed.
“Your kids are supposed to bury you. You’re not supposed to do that,” she said. “I’m grateful that he has a legacy with his children. However, you know, he’s 29. He didn’t make it to 30.”
The last time Frank Turner saw his son was at the auto shop where they were working on their cars. After his son’s death, a friend called Frank Turner and told him the shop’s security cameras had picked up their conversation.
He watched the video — a father and son spending time together on something they loved — and he cried.
Alexander had driven to downtown Sacramento to pick up her older sister from a club — a sister who would later watch her take her last breath.
On the cusp of turning 22 and living in her first apartment, she dreamed of becoming a social worker who helped children. Her family treasured her spark and honesty, they told reporters.
“She was outgoing, headstrong, spoke her peace whether you liked it or you didn’t,” her father, John Alexander, told KCRA-TV.
She was a doting aunt to her nieces and nephews as the youngest of four children herself, John Alexander told the Los Angeles Times. Her birthday was at the end of the month.
His daughter’s name was a combination of his own and his older sister’s, he told the Times.
“She was just beginning her life,” he told the newspaper, sobbing. “Stop all this senseless shooting.”
She is survived by her parents and three older siblings, KCRA-TV reported.
In life, Davis sometimes sought housing services and resources as a longtime member of Sacramento's unhoused community. A day after her death, a community group sought to aid others who lived on the streets nearby as a tribute to her.
The group brought dinner and supplies Monday evening to people in a plaza just feet (meters) away from the crime scene and dedicated their efforts to Davis, KCRA-TV reported.
A small bouquet of purple roses with a note saying “Melinda Rest In Peace” was also left on the street, as well as a card with messages, including one that said, “Melinda, we’re sorry Sacramento failed you. You deserved better.”
She had recently returned to the city's downtown business district after officials had helped her find housing before the pandemic began, according to Shawn Peter, a guide with the Downtown Sacramento Partnership.
Peter, who had known Davis for 15 years, told The Sacramento Bee that Davis had lived in the area on and off for a decade.
“Melinda was a very eccentric individual, a very sassy lady,” he told the newspaper. “This was her world, 24/7.”
Davis was a periodic guest at Maryhouse, a daytime center for women and children experiencing homelessness, from 2016 to 2018, director Shannon Stevens said in an email to The Associated Press.
Stevens recalled her as kind but someone who did not do well in crowds. She was seeking housing services at the time of her death.
“This was a space she came to find respite from the trauma of living on the streets of our city,” Sacramento Loaves & Fishes, which runs the Maryhouse program, said in a statement.
Harris' family members rushed downtown Sunday after learning of the shooting, fearing the worst because they knew Harris was a frequent presence at the London nightclub near the crime scene.
They hadn't heard from him in hours, begging police for information. Later that day, Harris was the first victim publicly identified by the coroner.
“My son was a very vivacious young man,” his mother, Pamela Harris, told KCRA-TV. “Fun to be around, liked to party, smiling all the time. Don’t bother people. For this to happen is crazy. I’m just to the point right now, I don’t know what to do. I don’t even feel like this is real. I feel like this is a dream.”
“This is a sad and terrible act of violence that took the lives of many,” his wife, Leticia Harris, told KCRA-TV. “I want answers so I can have closure for my children.”
The family had just booked an Airbnb for a trip to Mexico, The Sacramento Bee reported.
Known as “Yami,” Martinez-Andrade was downtown on Sunday for a concert, her stepfather told KCRA-TV.
She had saved money from her landscaping job for the ticket, her stepfather, Frank Gonzales, told the TV station.
“It’s been rough. We’re still going through a hard time right now,” Gonzales said to KCRA. “Hopefully we’ll get through this.”
She was killed in front of her best friend, according to KXTV-TV, who described her as someone who “brought light to the room" and had a positive outlook.
“There was never a dull moment with her. She has a beautiful heart and a beautiful mind. Everyone misses her so much," her best friend, who was not named, told KXTV-TV.
The father of six children — all younger than 9 years old — Hoye-Lucchesi was also a comfort to his own mother as she raised him in Sacramento.
“I never wanted kids, and if I said if I was to have a kid, I just wanted a boy. And I was blessed with a boy,” Sherilyn Hoye told KCRA-TV.
A memorial to him near the crime scene included white and blue balloons, candles and two empty bottles of Hennessy. On the ground, someone wrote “Josh” in what appeared to be blue paint.
“I love and miss you. Foreva n my heart!” someone wrote in black marker on a white balloon shaped like a star. “Things will never be the same,” read another balloon.
Hoye-Lucchesi's girlfriend called Hoye at 2:45 a.m. to tell her the tragic news. His heartbroken mother later saw painful images on social media.
“It was a post of my son on the ground dead. It was sent to me through Instagram. My son was lying on the ground dead,” Hoye told KCRA.
Dazio reported from Los Angeles. Associated Press Writer Kathleen Ronayne in Sacramento contributed to this report.