STOCKTON — The recent daytime shooting death of a 16-year-old boy has elicited feelings of anger, fear and frustration in south Stockton’s Conway Homes housing project, but on Thursday there was a sense of unity and a call for change.
About 50 community members crowded into a small conference room at the Conway Homes Community Center, sitting and standing shoulder to shoulder to discuss violence, crime and policing in their neighborhood.
In a room full of Stockton police officers, San Joaquin County sheriff’s deputies and other public officials, the most powerful voice belonged to Cesar Arroyo, 17, whose cousin, Elian Christian Calvo, was fatally shot Sept. 4 a few blocks from the community center.
Arroyo sat in the middle of the room and asked a number of questions. After the meeting, he vowed to live his life differently and said he would strive to influence the younger children who flocked to him outside the community center in a more positive way.
“I came to support my cousin,” Arroyo said. “I’m trying to be a voice for my cousin and a voice for Conway. I’m trying to do something for my community.”
Arroyo explained that he was with Calvo, an Edison High School student, just moments before he was gunned down in a shooting that had a “gang component,” according to Stockton police. Arroyo heard the gunshots and ran to his cousin. When he reached the corner of Dallas and Connecticut avenues, he saw his cousin lying on the ground, mortally wounded.
“Seeing that made me realize,” Arroyo said. “It’s like a wakeup call. After I saw my cousin shot dead, it kind of changed me.”
Gloria Allen, a member of the Stockton Unified School District Board of Trustees, hopes it will change the whole neighborhood.
Allen promoted the gathering as a “meeting on violence,” saying it would be attended by Stockton police and various city leaders. She said the emphasis would be on letting children talk about the violence they encounter in the neighborhood.
“These kids feel like no one cares,” Allen said. “Just look at them. They’ve lost their friend and they know they could be next.”
When Lt. Augustine Telly, Community Service Officer Patricia Sinor and other members of the Stockton Police Department arrived, it was clear they had come to encourage residents to start a Neighborhood Watch group. The first few minutes were awkward as Telly and Sinor tried to take control of the meeting while community members expressed skepticism about the effectiveness of Neighborhood Watch. As the meeting went on, both sides had an opportunity to speak and listen to each other in a constructive way.
“We have to build that relationship so you guys can trust us and community with us, and we can deliver for you,” Telly said.
Conway Homes, which is operated by the county’s Housing Authority, is a neighborhood made up of more than 400 single-family homes and duplexes for low-income residents. Community manager Antoinette Reed urged residents to work together to make changes in the neighborhood and throughout the city.
“We have to come together as a community because the whole community has the same issues as Conway,” Reed said. “This is a community issue. It’s a city issue. It’s not just a Conway issue, but we’re going to start here.”
Near the end of the meeting, four people volunteered to serve as Neighborhood Watch captains.
“That was huge,” Sinor said. “We’ve tried for years to get Neighborhood Watch going in Conway Homes and we’ve never been able to get anything going.”
Telly acknowledged that the meeting began with tension and uneasiness, but he was happy to say it ended with a sense of understanding and togetherness.
“There are a lot of good people out here and it’s being tainted by the senseless acts of a small, small percentage of the community,” Telly said. “I know the community is fed up and they’re tired of it. I was surprised by the way the meeting started, but I’m very pleased with the way it turned out.”
— Contact reporter Jason Anderson at (209) 546-8279 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him at recordnet.com/crimeblog and on Twitter @Stockton911.