Candles lit in Richmond after city reels from 3 homicides in 6 days

Candles were lit at a Richmond vigil Thursday evening, as the city reels from a sudden surge in homicides: Three in six days. 

Police detectives are overwhelmed with three complex investigations, after a lull of almost five months with no homicides. Whether the three killings might be linked, or have possible gang connections, are all part of the investigation. Currently, no arrests have been made.

"They jinxed it, they really jinxed it," said resident Dawn Brown, who lives one building over from where one of the victims was murdered. "I thought it would last, but I guess it didn't." 

The most recent occurred Thursday morning just before 10 a.m on Maine Avenue and South 15th Street.

The victim has been identified as 35-year-old Mark Johnson Jr. of Richmond. Witnesses said he'd had an argument some someone before hand.

"It's not unusual, a dispute or disrespect of some sort on social media or in person and it blows up," said Police Lt. Felix Tan, "so we  have to disrupt, intervene in that whole cycle of violence and that's what we're doing right now." 

The second victim was 29-year-old Mark Henderson. He was shot and killed Monday.

"My son died right on the dirt," Cynthia Henderson told KTVU.

Her son, she says was trying to shield a friend from the sudden gunfire,which broke out at about 9 p.m. in the 5000 block of Hartness Avenue in the Crescent Park neighborhood. Henderson says her son had no trouble with anyone and no interest in guns. She describes him as a college graduate and devoted father to his young daughter. Henderson competed in mixed martial arts, she said, and mentored local children in self-defense and healthy habits. 

"He was getting up out of here and he told people all he wanted was to do his MMA fighting and raise his daughter," said his mother, "he was one of the good guys, and I'm upset and angry".

A short distance away, in the Park View neighborhood, the first of the three homicides occurred.

On Thursday evening, community activists joined with Mark Henderson's friends and relatives to light candles and share memories, writing tributes to him on a poster decorated with photos.  

"My heart is hurting and I feel sad, " said activist Dee Wanda, "I have hope, and I can still smile, but there's a pain in there." 

"Only God has the future, we don't," said Mark Henderson Sr., the victim's father. "His plan is not our plan and we've got to go by his plan."

The third victim was 20-year-old Javoni Foster of Antioch was ambushed while sitting in his car on South 55th Street Saturday afternoon.   

"He's parked there, and then a car pulls up next to him and starts shooting," said Tan said.  Foster drove a short distance and crashed. 

Richmond homicides totals have been flat, or falling, in recent years.

Fifteen were recorded in 2017, and 59 during the past three years.

That compares favorably to some of the peaks of the past few decades: 47 in both 2007 and 2009.

The early 90's were a particularly violent time: 62 killings in 1991 alone, and more than 150 combined in the three years that followed. 

In recent years, community policing has become a big focus, along with aggressive efforts to crack down on individuals and gangs responsible for much of the mayhem.

Citizen academies, where residents spend 40 hours learning about crime prevention and law enforcement, are fully enrolled year-round. 

So it was understandable that the department would bask in a peaceful stretch, the longest lull since the 70's.