OAKLAND -- Relatives of more than a dozen murder victims rallied Friday night outside City Hall in an effort to highlight rewards for information that may help police solve the cases.
The evening rally, sponsored by the Christopher Lavell Jones Foundation, is the second such event in the last six months. This one was to call attention to the Crime Stoppers rewards of up to $10,000 leading to arrests in each unsolved murder case. Some families have also added thousands more to those reward funds.
"Our hope is ... to ensure closure for families who seek justice for their loved ones -- still hurting -- over the unnecessary bloodshed in our streets," said Executive Director Brenda Grisham, the mother of Jones, who was killed on Dec. 31, 2010.
"Valentine's Day is a day where we celebrate love, but for so many families this day is a day of pain among hurting parents, spouses, but most of all -- hurting children who will never be able to give their loved one a Valentine's Day card," she added.
Other families whose children were killed and whose cases remain unsolved echoed the hope that they can rally to find some justice.
"I'm trying to save somebody else's child," said Hayward resident Paula Pringle, whose son Harrell Monroe was killed on July 1, 2001, in East Oakland. "Mine is gone and we can't bring ours back but we can help get the word out so maybe we can save someone else's (child)."
Monroe's slaying remains unsolved, as does the death of Phillip Levi, who was killed March 1, 2011.
"I feel like I jumped into this club or this gang that I didn't want to be a part of," said Mysti Knight, Levi's mother. "I'm fighting for our hired officials to actually do their jobs. I don't want a family to go through what I have been through."
Joining the rally was Oakland police Officer Frank Bonifacio, as well as several homicide detectives calling on the public to give police any information they may have about the unsolved crimes.
"Our homicide investigators are committed to solving these crimes in the city of Oakland," said Oakland police Sgt. Sean Fleming.
Fleming said police are doing more training, speaking with nonprofit anti-violence organizations, adding more information to the department's website including an anonymous tip line, working with victim support groups and encouraging people to come forward if they have information.
"We want the community to get involved and for the community to be part of the solution," he added.
Since 2008, Oakland has averaged about 111 homicides a year, with a high of 131 in 2012 and a low of 95 in 2010. There have been 16 homicides in Oakland this year.
Follow Kristin J. Bender at Twitter.com/kjbender.