For nearly a decade, Oakland Councilwoman Lynette Gibson McElhaney and her family regularly gathered with the group Soldiers Against Violence Everywhere on street corners in their community to mourn the victims of violence.
They said prayers, recited the names of young men and women who died on those corners and chanted “somebody died here, you need to care” in order to comfort grieving families and ensure that every victim of violence was memorialized.
On Saturday, the day before Mother’s Day, McElhaney and her husband stood on the corner of Maple Avenue and Adams Boulevard in Los Angeles, to do the same for their own son, Victor McElhaney, a USC student who was shot and killed on that corner two months ago.
“I’m standing where my son took his last breath, and that seemed the right thing to do on this Mother’s Day,” she said.
Victor McElhaney, 21, who had been studying jazz percussion at the Thornton School of Music, was with a group of friends about a mile and a half from USC when he was shot during a robbery outside a liquor store. The three suspects fled in a dark-colored sedan, police have said.
Despite pleas from family and friends for someone to come forward with information about the killing, no one has been arrested.
On Saturday, his parents again appealed to the community for information in the case.
“We’ve got some men out there who don’t know the value of their own lives,” Lynette Gibson McElhaney said. “They don’t need to be at large where they can do harm to another mother’s son.”
Victor McElhaney, a talented drummer, had transferred to USC from Cal State East Bay in the fall of 2017, and was a leader on campus, friends recalled.
Before coming to Los Angeles, he had taught at Oakland Public Conservatory of Music.
In the days after McElhaney was killed, hundreds gathered to remember him at a standing-room-only memorial at USC that included spoken word and musical performances.
“Vic has made a legacy that is going to forever live on in my heart and at USC,” said Nia Warren, 21, a USC student and childhood friend of McElhaney. “I am asking for justice for my friend … and I’m asking for some sort of peace for his family.”
Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas also urged the killers or anyone with information about the case to come forward.
“We will not rest until this matter is appropriately resolved,” he said. “The least we can do as a city and as a county is to make sure justice is done.”
Theresa Butler, 60, of Oakland, who helped found Soldiers Against Violence Everywhere, was one of McElhaney’s Bible study teachers. He sometimes played the drums at the group’s events, she said.
On Saturday, Butler stood on the corner of Maple Avenue and Adams Boulevard while another young man played the drums. McElhaney’s friends handed out red roses and fliers asking for information about the case to drivers and passersby.
“We want to bring awareness to the community,” Butler said. “They don’t have to be scared to tell us what they know.”
Standing next to her, a woman with a bullhorn chanted: “Somebody died here. You need to care.”