SAN JOSE -- To his family and friends, Anthony Santa Cruz will forever be a well-rounded kid, a football player and budding artist.

But he'll go down in history only as the fifth.

Not the fifth child.

Not fifth in his class.

Not in fifth grade.

The fifth homicide of 2013.

It's the way even his mother finds herself talking about her 17-year-old son now: "His name was Anthony Santa Cruz and he was the fifth,'' knifed in the heart after school one terrible afternoon by a still-unknown stranger.

"Shrek'' Gee was the 33rd of that year; Francisco Lugo, the 22nd. James Zamudio was the eighth this year.

Hoping to bring alive these and other homicide victims in the public's mind -- and to push for safer streets -- about 65 relatives gathered Saturday at San Jose High School. They marched a few blocks to Alum Rock Cemetery, many with signs featuring photographs of their dead. One banner read, "Stop the Violence.''

"I don't want Shrek to be just another statistic,'' said Mary Munoz, the mother of his now 8-month-old son Lucifer. The boy was only 11 days old when Gee, 22, was shot in broad daylight outside Tico's Tacos, also by a stranger.

Headlines touting San Jose as the safest major city in America have been replaced by reports of killings and thinning police ranks. The city has had 11 homicides so far this year, fewer than last year at this time.


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Last year, the death toll was 44, the third year in a row killings topped 40. The last time that happened was two decades ago, in the 1990s.

The widespread impression in the city is that the majority of the violence is gang-related. But last year, only about a third of the homicides involved gangs.

The five families who attended the march have formed a homicide survivors support group to console each other. Some lost their loved ones through random acts of violence, as in the Santa Cruz and Gee homicides.

But even when the victim and his attackers knew each other, it's tough. Melinda Lopez and Nana Lugo lost their father Francisco Lugo in June when he was hit in the back of the head during a card game, apparently by an acquaintance. Lopez, 31, wore large, round earrings with a photo of "Tata'' on them to the march.

"He just had a radiant smile,'' said family friend Priscilla Ortez. "He was 100 percent a grandfather and father to really everyone, not just his own kids.''

The march, organized by Santa Cruz's mother, Elsa Lopez, began with a short prayer by Pastor Abel Rios of the New Harvest Christian Fellowship Church.

In an interview, Rios praised the event, saying it's high time San Jose's law-abiding, low-income Latino community commands more attention.

"We're teaching them they can speak up,'' the pastor said.

Contact Tracey Kaplan at 408-278-3482. Follow her at Twitter.com/tkaplanreport