Stockton officials held two meet-ups this week with community members to address recent gun violence in the city, as well as the public’s concerns about crime and neighborhood safety.
On Monday evening, Stockton Councilmember Dan Wright led a town hall public safety meeting for the city at the Arnold Rue Community Center in his district.
The meeting came in response to the shooting death of a 17-year-old boy just down the road from the community center near Cesar Chavez High School and Unity Park, an area also within Wright’s District 6. Cesar Chavez student Thai Khin, later identified by police as the victim, died from his injuries after intervening to protect a friend and fellow student who was being assaulted. The other victim, only identified by police as a 16-year-old boy, sustained injuries from being pistol-whipped and was expected to recover.
The bleachers in the community center’s gym quickly filled up as the town hall began at about 5:30 p.m.
Wright described Khin’s death as traumatic and said he couldn’t sleep that night. He knew that something had to be done, so he called other local government and law enforcement officials to organize the town hall.
“We do not want an event like this to go unanswered,” he told attendees.
The District 2 councilor was joined at the town hall by Stockton Mayor Kevin Lincoln and fellow councilmembers Michele Padilla and Vice Mayor Kimberly Warmsley, as well as other city staff, San Joaquin County Supervisor Paul Canepa and the Stockton Police Department. Representatives from the Stockton Unified School District were also in attendance, including district police, interim Superintendent Traci Miller, Governing Board President AngelAnn Flores and trustees Vice President Kennetha Stevens, Board Clerk Sofia Colón and Donald Donaire.
Wright made sure officials only spoke for a total of about 15 minutes, as he wanted the rest of the evening to be given over to the public to ask questions, voice concerns and let out their anger.
“I’ll be here until the gym is empty,” Wright said, later telling Stocktonia that he holds office hours at that community center once a month and anyone is welcome to come see him to continue the discussion or talk about any other issues.
Community members expressed their sadness, hurt and anger at Khin’s death and similar crimes, advocating for things like gun control, a better relationship between law enforcement and the community and more activities for the city’s youth, as well as calls for the community to take responsibility for their communities and the safety of their neighbors.
Here’s what those on both sides of the podium had to say.
Stockton Mayor Kevin Lincoln told the crowd that they all share the same public safety concerns. However, dealing with crime isn’t just about the act itself, he said, but also healing the trauma that lingers in the community long after.
Stockton Police Capt. Bradley Burrell spoke about the city’s current crime stats, emphasizing how important it is for the community to work with police in preventing and solving crime.
SUSD Police Sgt. Roberto Marquez talked about ways the Stockton Unified’s police officers “engage with our community to stop some of these violent acts from occurring” through various programs and outreach.
Cesar Chavez High School English teacher Ellena Gibbons expressed the need for involving students in the conversation, describing their anger after a fellow student was shot and killed earlier this month.
Shonda Taliaferro, who has lived in Stockton for 23 years, says she’s never felt unsafe in her city until now. She told her fellow town hall attendees that they can’t rely on their elected leaders to get things, it’s up to the community.
Lamar Scott, his daughter attends Cesar Chavez, has organized in the community to bring safety to Stockton neighborhoods where law enforcement isn’t always visibly present. He also wanted to know why the kids weren’t invited to join in on the conversation.
Stockton Vice Mayor Kimberly Warmsley spoke about the city services available to the community, particularly what’s available to kids and for emergency mental health response through the city’s new crisis team.
Local activist Dionne Smith-Downs says the community needs to step because elecetd officials come and go.
Interim Stockton Unified Superintendent Traci Miller and Board Trustee Sofia Colón, who represents SUSD District 6 where Khin died, spoke at the end of the meeting. Miller described the town hall as a “somber” and “sobering” event, while Colón said as her voice broke that the whole thing “is very difficult.
“I too have been to too many funerals of my students over the years,” Miller, a 25-year SUSD veteran, said.
Stockton Councilmember Dan Wright closed the meeting by summing up all the concerns community members expressed, the most prevalent of which was trust.
Stockton Police Chief Stanley McFadden talks with reporters during a public safety walk in south Stockton April 19, 2023, before stopping in at Van buren Elementary School to play tether ball at recess and handout stickers to students.
On Wednesday, Stockton Police Chief Stanley McFadden organized a neighborhood walkabout in south Stockton where two shootings last month resulted in four being people killed and one injured.
Officers, community leaders and representatives from the police chief’s Community Advisory Board committee split into three groups going door to door in areas near the South Side Market in the 2100 block of South Airport Way and the intersection of 10th and Tiffany streets, the same corner where Van Buren Elementary School is located.
Investigators have not yet been able to identify motives or suspects in either case. Stockton Public Information Officer Andres Morado said the department came out to let the community know they were still working the case and to canvas the neighborhood for information.
Stockton Police Chief Stanley McFadden calls on the community to be partners with police to solve crimes by reporting any information they have that can help with investigations in the city.
Stockton Police Officer touts the benefits of reporting tips through the anonymous reporting system Stockton Crime Stoppers, including possible cash rewards. He noted that a tip submitted that led to a homicide arrest the day before.
Stockton Unified interim Superintendent Traci Miller said that students deserve the safety to play and be active in their communities. She called on Stocktonians to be partners with law enforcement by reporting any information they may have to help solve and prevent crime in their city.
The city has launched a pilot mental health mobile crisis intervention response program in November called Care Link in partnership with Community Medical Centers. Lindsey Lopez, project manager at Community Medical Centers, says the program will be expanding to 24-hour service in about six weeks.
Chief McFadden speaks with reporters about a host of issues, including safely reporting crime, the community’s exasperation at Stockton’s violent crime rate and why it’s important for a police chief to walk the streets of his city.