Rosie Kimmons and four other women from It’s in the House ministries stood beneath a bridge Wednesday morning in Stockton handing out toiletries to the homeless and discussed the previous night’s violence.
On Tuesday, about 8:20 p.m., a dark-colored SUV drove by the corner market on Madison Street not far from downtown Stockton and someone inside started shooting -- seven people were hit, three of them fatally.
Now Kimmons and her colleagues had an urge to get to the market.
About noon they arrived, shouting “Hallelujah!” and inviting others to pray.
“We just want to pray and show there’s hope for Stockton,” Kimmons said.
She knows the violence that’s long been a part of the city’s identity. Her husband’s son was killed in a drive-by years ago, “and a friend just lost her son in a shooting last week.”
“But there’s hope,” Kimmons said. “The hope is in everyone coming together and fighting for Stockton.”
Stockton police said there have been no arrests and only a vague description of the car used in the drive-by was available. The San Joaquin County coroner identified the three slain victims as Aliyah Taylor, 20, Kabin Kennebrew, 23, and Arniska Lofton, 27, all from Stockton. Four men were also wounded.
FOR THE RECORD
2:26 p.m.: An earlier version of this story misspelled Aliyah Taylor’s first name.
Kim Smith, 23, was driving to Stockton from Las Vegas when she found out her friend Aliyah had been killed.
“I was supposed to pick her up, and I got the call. She was trying to get off this street,” Smith said in the parking lot of the market Wednesday. “Since I’ve known her she’s been a good person. She didn’t mess with no one.”
“It’s crazy. People just killing each other,” she added.
In an update posted on the Stockton Police Department’s Facebook page, officials said the barrage of gunfire came from a dark-colored SUV that fled south on Madison Street toward the city’s Civic Center.
The shooting was the latest bloody incident for a city trying to right itself amid a legacy of violent crime, economic struggle and a historical municipal bankruptcy.
Last year, suspected gang members robbed a bank, took three hostages and led police on a wild chase across the city until two were killed and the third captured.
Tuesday night’s shooting took place at a small corner market parking lot that is well-known to police as a gathering spot for gang members and drug dealers.
“Anyone who knows the neighborhood knows it can be violent,” said Stockton police spokesman Joe Silva. “But when you have seven shot, three dead, that’s going to shake the whole community. It shows we still have a long way to go.”
Witnesses told police they heard dozens of shots and some said it sounded like a semiautomatic weapon.
When police arrived, a woman was dead on the sidewalk outside the store with its bright pink sign and the always-ignored “No Loitering” sign.
Despite the reputation of the parking lot, it’s a neighborhood market -- frequented by a range of people who live in the surrounding apartments in a neighborhood walking distance from City Hall, and a marina, hotel and convention center that was once hoped would change the fortunes of the city, but became party to its fall into bankruptcy.
Until Detroit, Stockton was the largest U.S. city to file for bankruptcy, which it did in 2012. It came on the heels of sweeping foreclosures. In 2008, more Stockton homeowners lost houses than anywhere else in the country.
As the city faltered, experienced police officers fled to jobs in cities with better pay and less stress. Stockton’s Police Department dropped to 320 officers at the lowest point and the city was the second-most-dangerous in California, according to FBI statistics.
With a bankruptcy agreement in place, Stockton is slowly trying to rise. There are now 379 officers, with a goal and funding for 485 by 2017.
But the city struggles to hire officers when other cities still offer more money and far less stress. The city’s unemployment rate tops 15% and violence seems ever present.