Flowers placed at the I.V. Deli in Isla Vista on May 25, 2014, form a part of a makeshift memorial to victims of a shooting rampage.(Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times)
Addressing a packed stadium at UC Santa Barbara on Tuesday, Richard Martinez, the father of slain student Christopher Michaels-Martinez, called on the crowd to demand tougher gun control laws.
He recalled how his son, when he was 8 years old, asked to play football. One day during a scrimmage, a bigger kid knocked him down. Martinez worried he was hurt, but in two seconds his son popped right up.
“He stopped, put one foot on the ground and walked determined into the line,” Martinez said from the podium at Harder Stadium. “That’s the kind of kid Chris was.”
In the days following Friday’s slayings in Isla Vista, Martinez has become an outspoken advocate for gun control. Not all the victims’ families agree with his approach, he said, but they are still supporting each other.
“I don’t want anyone to think I represent all of the families,” he said.
He called on the crowd, filled mostly with students, to demand their elected officials call for stricter gun laws.
[UPDATE 9 a.m. PST May 28: Though Martinez never said the word gun throughout his entire speech.]
“It’s intolerable,” Martinez said. “Not one more person should have to die because of this ridiculous situation.”
Moments later, he had the crowd screaming “Not one more!” Some gave him a standing ovation.
He also read statements from the family of victim Weihan “David” Wang, 20, who was killed in the rampage. They also called for stricter gun control laws.
“Our child desired a land free from fear,” they said in their statement. “You will live in our hearts forever and ever. Thank you, son, we will learn to love people the rest of our lives as you did.”
The family of Cheng Yuan “James” Hong, 20, also had Martinez read a statement on their behalf. One of his parents saw their son in a dream last night, he said. Their son told his parents he loved all his friends who stayed with him through the good and the bad, Martinez said.
“I wanted to stay here forever with everyone, I know that there is still great injustice in this world and policies that can be improved,” said the Hong family statement. “I cannot help with this anymore, but you can. Please love and appreciate everyone around you.”
Martinez held up a bag with the cover of the novel “Gone with the Wind.”
“May we together create a peaceful world and let hatred be gone with the wind,” the Hong family said via Martinez.
At the end of his speech, Martinez asked the students to move forward like his son did at his football practice.
“Like Chris on that day we’ve been knocked down,” he said. “Like Chris on that day I want you to get back up and walk determinately forward.”
UC President Janet Napolitano also addressed the crowd, saying she wished she wasn’t.
“But we are here because a series of violent crimes took the lives of six of our UCSB students,” Napolitano said. “We are here because in this moment of loss there’s a human desire to come together to reach out to one another for love and support.”
Napolitano said it was important not to lose sight of the lives they were gathered to remember and not let the atrocity that befell the victims define them.
“The good they did, their personal triumphs, personal traits, the grace notes they brought to their everyday lives,” Napolitano said. “As long as we hold them in our hearts, they’re not gone.”
A crowd of mostly students packed the stadium, many of them wearing black ribbons that volunteers had made throughout the day for the memorial service. When they filled the bleachers they sat on the grassy stadium under a warm sun to remember the students killed in Friday’s slayings.
The service came four days after the shooting and stabbing rampage police say Elliot Rodger went on that left six UCSB students dead and 13 others injured in the seaside college town.
The other three victims killed were: Veronika Weiss, 19, Katie Cooper, 22, and George Chen, 19. The names of the injured have not been released.
The school canceled classes and declared a day of mourning and reflection on Tuesday. It was just one of several events planned throughout the day and week to help students grieve and get counseling.