Courtnie Chung said her cousin, Alynia Asiah Lawrence, will never get the opportunity to plan out her future. The 17-year-old girl was shot and killed last week when someone fired at a car she was sitting in outside a south Sacramento liquor store.
“She didn’t have a chance to do anything with her life,” Chung said about her cousin. “She was robbed of that chance.”
Chung gathered for a candlelight vigil Thursday night with a few dozen family members and supporters in a parking lot just down the street from where Lawrence was slain. Overwhelmed with anguish and anger, the family cried out for help to find those responsible for her death. But they also remembered the girl whose life was taken too soon.
“She lit up the room. She was full of life,” Chung said about her cousin, who also went by “Lena,” who loved music and clothes like most typical teenagers.
The shooting was reported about 6:30 p.m. Jan. 13 when a 911 caller reported hearing gunshots in the 6900 block of Stockton Boulevard, near 65th Street in south Sacramento.
The caller told authorities the vehicle with the shooting victim “was driven away from the scene,” the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Office said last week in a news release.
Sheriff’s officials said deputies arrived and found evidence that a shooting had occurred there, but the victim and the involved vehicle had left the scene. The victim, later identified by family as Lawrence, died at a hospital.
Homicide detectives questioned witnesses at the scene but the Sheriff’s Office has not released any further details about the fatal shooting, including any suspect information. No arrests have been made.
Berry Accius, founder of the community activist group Voice of the Youth, organized the vigil to raise awareness of girl’s death. He said he also wants more accountability from law enforcement, local government leaders and the community that fails to respond as more young people, especially girls, fall prey to “predators.”
Accius said Lawrence was not the intended target as she was sitting in a car with a man in his 20s and another girl, and the shooting was not a random attack. He said if the community fails to respond with outrage, their child could become the next victim.
“Everybody knows what area this is. This ain’t the suburbs. This ain’t an amusement park,” Accius said standing in a Stockton Boulevard parking lot speaking at the vigil. “This is a hub of sex trafficking. Let’s be real.”
He said the girl’s death goes beyond the gun violence that took her life. Accius told those gathered at the vigil that the man she was with coerced Lawrence to be there with him that evening, because there’s no reason why “an adult black male be with a young 17-year-old girl. Are we all in agreement on that?”
Accius said there is so much hurt in this community as families continue to gather to mourn another young life lost to violence. He said these young people need help from the community, and they need to be able to grow from their mistakes.
He urged parents to examine their children’s social media accounts, check their cellphones and find out who their friends are. If their friends are no good, Accius said get their children away from them as soon as possible before it’s too late.
“I want to say to the family and friends why we do this, because we are going to make sure every single person who felt her life didn’t matter will be held accountable,” Accius told the crowd. “She made mistakes, but she didn’t deserve death. She was on a troubled path, but she did not deserve death. She was a lost young girl, but she did not deserve death.”
Johnny Hudson, Lawrence’s uncle, told the crowd at the vigil “we need to be role models.” He said had a troubled young life like many others, but he grew out of that life with help from others.
“I appreciate all of you showing up out here,” Hudson said at the vigil. “Spreading your love and support, showing baby girl how much she was really loved.”
Detectives asked anyone with information about the fatal shooting to call the Sheriff’s Office at 916-874-5115 or Sacramento Valley Crime Stoppers at 916-443-4357. Tips can also be submitted anonymously by calling 916-874-8477 or by filling out the Sheriff’s Office online tip form.