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Richmond Families Gather in Memory of a Violent Year



About 100 people came to City Hall for the 26th annual holiday memorial for families and friends of homicide victims. Names and pictures flashed across a screen of victims from as long ago as 1990 and as recent as November.

“We hear people saying it’ll be OK, but we know it’ll never be the same,” says Daniel Bagby. “In a season where people are happy, sometimes we just want to take a walk.”

Angela clutches a framed picture of her boyfriend, Ronald Holder Jr., and wipes away tears as she hangs a red ribbon on a statue in his honor. Holder was shot to death in his car in October outside the Walmsley Boulevard Dollar General where he worked.

“He had just moved here in December of 2015,” says Angela, who didn’t want her last name used. “We were in a long-distance relationship before then.” Holder’s case remains unsolved. 

LaRisha White of Chesterfield had two sons murdered, one last year and one in 2014. She says the holidays are a particularly difficult time of the year. “We always did things as a family, and now they’re no longer here,” she says. This is her first time at the memorial service, where she comes to the front twice to hang two ribbons.

“It’s a sense of comfort for those that lost a loved one from violence,” says Cory Todd, whose brother André was killed in 2014. “A support system to get us through the holidays.”

It’s an unusual scene Dec. 9 in the City Council chambers. A woman sings unaccompanied gospel, and tissues are handed out in fistfuls. Linda Jordan of the Coalition Against Violence, which organizes the event, says the group used to do the event in the lobby, but it outgrew that space.

This year has seen an increase in homicides, with 58 people lost to violence in the city, said Police Chief Alfred Durham on Friday. Last year at this time, it was 41. Durham, who lost a brother to murder in 2005, admits it’s been a trying year. 

“The murder rate is not the new norm,” Jordan says. “We will not accept that here in Richmond.”

Ester Marshall of the Richmond Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office hung a ribbon for all the victims whose families couldn’t be there. “It’s just too much,” she says. The statue, “The River of Tears,” dedicated in 1996, lives in the lobby but is brought up to chambers annually for the service. 

A 59th victim, 19-year-old Jahmeique Phillips, was shot and killed early Sunday morning. 

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