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East Palo Alto residents demand action after Jack Ferrall Park shooting kills Ralph Fields and sends kids running

EAST PALO ALTO, Calif. (KGO) — Residents of East Palo Alto are frustrated, angry and worried after a nightmare unfolded at Jack Farrell Park that was packed with children and adults on Tuesday.

Police say 33 bullets flew in the shooting, which killed one man and injured three others.

On Thursday, city leaders called a special community meeting. The virtual rally was truly the first time neighbors could publicly voice their concerns and call for action.

“You all have to do better. Do better,” asked one resident.

Another pointed out: ‘Things have to get to this point before you do anything…’

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“You have to do something to make this better and safer for our babies,” said a third resident. “This is unacceptable.”

During the public comment portion of the night, there was outrage, raw emotion and a call for real action.

“Maybe a police presence to walk around there — maybe even like interacting with park residents and just checking in,” one resident suggested.

Another said: ‘I think it’s not very realistic not to provide education and resources to the community and expect the community to act in a certain way.’

“Step up,” a woman told the city’s police force. “Y’all want the community to step up, y’all need it too! Y’all gotta lead, right? Y’all supposed to be the leaders? Lead! So we can follow you guys, for that we know what to do.”

Many are still reeling from the disturbing video which showed a young girl recording on Tuesday afternoon as she played with her cousins ​​at Jack Farrell Park. One of several gunmen fired from just 10 to 15 feet away from her. The camera captured the sound of gunfire, the girl running away, and then her cries for help.

“That sound of the little girl running and crying is going to stick with me for a long time,” said EPA City Councilman Antonio Lopez.

A mother who was at the park with her children on Tuesday spoke out and described: “It was a scary mess. There were so many kids screaming and crying and running around. I didn’t know where my child was! So many scared, and finally I found him hiding behind a tree, luckily a lady took him and a bunch of others to hide.

According to the police, 33 bullets were fired between two groups. The shooting death marks the first homicide of the year for the city.

Pastor Paul Bains told the community, “This is the first murder this year and we pray it will be the only one.

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East Palo Alto has successfully dealt with gun violence in the past after recording 43 homicides in 1992.

In recent years, the predominantly working-class community has had to contend with COVID infecting one in six residents, many of whom are high-risk essential workers. Unemployment and high housing costs have also left many struggling.

“The status quo isn’t going to — it’s not going to save us. It’s going to tear us apart,” Lopez told ABC7 News ahead of the reunion. “People are going to leave and so we really have to be able to be bold and not think about ideology, not think about ourselves against them, not think about who’s in this party, who’s not. .”

Residents complained to ABC7 News that police were not doing enough to respond to suspicious activity at Jack Farrell Park where Tuesday’s shooting occurred.

“It’s very important that we don’t make assumptions on our own and go out and target people and assume they’re doing these activities,” the acting police chief said, Jeff Liu, during a press conference on Wednesday. “If we don’t get reports, we’re not going to accuse them of doing anything they do or don’t do.”

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Councilman Lopez said the police department had about five vacancies and was struggling to recruit from nearby towns with bigger budgets. The city is currently working on its budget. Lopez said he will have to reprioritize to strengthen public safety.

“Whether it’s, you know, officers — whether it’s creative community watch groups, whether it’s kind of an alternative where we have a social justice component — but the fact is what we’re doing is not not sustainable,” Lopez told ABC7 News. .

East Palo Alto’s leadership is a mix of seasoned elected officials and a new generation. Lopez is 27 and a lifelong resident.

“There are lives at stake – our children, our nieces or our nephews. They deserve a better world and they deserve a better city,” he added.

If you’re on the ABC7 News app, click here to watch live

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