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A peaceful prayer walk degenerated into shoving and shouting Sunday afternoon, as the weekend shooting deaths of three young people aroused anger, fear and suspicion among some of the participants.
Because of the “mayhem,” Clarice Jackson, the mother of victim Latecia J. Fox, wasn’t able to go to the spot where her daughter’s body lay Saturday morning.
“I wanted to see where my daughter took her last breath,” Jackson said. “When the altercation broke out, I was rushed off in the opposite direction — I didn’t get a chance to see the house.”
The trouble began, witnesses said, when a man said to be the father of victim Jakela Foster’s 1-year-old child began arguing with someone who he believed knew what happened early Saturday when Foster was killed.
“It just made me think about the night that this happened to my daughter,” Jackson said. “It left an imprint on my mind as to what she must have went through that night.”
Community leaders at the prayer walk echoed Police Chief Todd Schmaderer in urging anyone with knowledge of the shootings to come forward and talk to police.
“There are people around here, people who know exactly what happened,” Willie Barney, president of the Empowerment Network, told the crowd of more than 100 that had gathered at 34th and Parker Streets. “It’s unacceptable. ... There is no place for people who take innocent lives in our community. Make the call (to police).”
A police spokeswoman declined Sunday to say whether any witnesses had come forward.
Omaha police officers in at least nine cruisers rushed to the scene at 3:45 p.m., about 45 minutes into the event. They dispersed the crowd that earlier had been praying together and consoling one another.
“Go home,” officers told the crowd as people screamed, cried and ran through neighboring yards, fearful that gunfire might erupt.
Police made no arrests in connection with the disturbance, which quieted down at one point but flared up again as people made their way to their cars and homes.
The prayer walk was intended to remember the three victims — Foster, 19, Fox, 24, and Cameron R. Harris, 26 — and seek justice for their deaths.
The shootings happened early Saturday at 3402 Parker St., where 40 to 50 people had been partying inside an unoccupied house. Police have said that the two women died outside the house on Parker Street as multiple shooters exchanged gunfire.
Harris died later at the Nebraska Medical Center.
Five other people were wounded but survived: Treveon Lillard, 20; Trenelle Miller, 21; Johnny Tiller, 21; Jordyn Zyla, 20; and Andrelet Bush, 26.
A spokesman for the Nebraska Medical Center said Sunday afternoon that none remained at the hospital.
Zyla’s father confirmed that she had been released. He said she didn’t want to talk about the shootings.
A person familiar with the investigation told The World-Herald that the shootings were the result of a lingering dispute among three sects of the Bloods gang.
Schmaderer said at least four of the men shot and injured are documented gang members.
On Sunday, however, relatives of the dead denied that their loved ones had gang ties.
Foster and Fox had no criminal records, beyond minor traffic infractions for Fox. Court records show that Harris served a year and two months in prison, from March 2012 to June 2013, on a charge of possession of a deadly weapon by a prohibited person.
Schmaderer, certain that people at the party knew the shooters, urged them to talk to police so that justice could be served.
The shootings Saturday, as well as another one nearby that injured two people, sparked fears of retaliation and resulted in more police officers patrolling north Omaha. But as of Sunday evening, no outward gang retaliation had been reported.
On Sunday night, Jackson repeated the pleas for people to come forward.
“The best retaliation is the retaliation of opening up one’s mouth and disclosing to the authorities what they know — so that another family never has to deal with this,” Jackson said.
“Speak up. Say something,” Barbara Robinson, program manager of Impact One, said about halfway through Sunday’s peace march.
Impact One is an organization that seeks to end gang violence. Robinson’s teenage son has been charged with first-degree murder in two gang-related deaths.
Robinson said her daughter was at Saturday’s fatal party.
“As a community, we can’t pretend that things aren’t going on,” she said.
Jackson, president of the Voice Advocacy Center, said she is “very grateful” for the many messages of support she has received from family, friends and people in the community.
When Fox was 8 years old, Jackson adopted her. Fox’s birth mother was incarcerated for much of her life, Jackson said.
Although Fox had dyslexia, she prevailed over her struggle to read, write and spell and went on as an adult to work at a group home in Council Bluffs for people with developmental disabilities.
“She overcame a lot of obstacles to become the woman she was to this day,” Jackson said.
Earlier Sunday, Harris’ father, Floyd Dale, said his son “never missed a day of work.” The two worked together at Dale’s business, Floyd’s Lawn Service.
“A lot of people want to say this and that (about Harris), but he was just a great kid,” Dale said. “We worked together every single day.”
Dale said Harris had dated Fox for two years.
“My son had plans,” Dale said. “He was set to take over the business when I retired in a couple of years.”
Harris grew up in Omaha and graduated from Bryan High School in 2006. He is survived by a large family, many of whom gathered at a home near 45th and Parker Streets before Sunday’s prayer walk.
“Cameron wasn’t someone who was out running the streets every night,” his father said. “He was doing his best. He was a great kid.”
Two men who were shot Friday night at another party, held nearby at 1710 N. 32nd St., were treated at the med center and released. They were Mahogany Phillip, 38, and Liondell Richard, 27.
Anyone with any information about the two incidents is asked to contact Crime Stoppers at 402-444-STOP (7867) or log on to omahacrimestoppers.net. Tipsters always remain anonymous and may be eligible for a cash reward up to $25,000 for an arrest in a homicide case and $10,000 for an arrest in a shooting.
“What are you going to do today,” asked City Councilman Ben Gray, “that’s going to make a difference tomorrow?”
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