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Rochester Mourns Two Lives Lost to Gun Violence

Patti Singer

Jaquayla Young was killed Sept. 19, 2020 in a mass shooting on Pennsylvania Avenue. Provided by East High School.

An early morning shooting Sept. 19 led to a weekend of prayer and the opportunity to seek counseling after two recent high-school graduates were killed.

Jarvis Alexander, 19, who graduated from UPrep last year and Jaquayla Young, also 19 and a graduate last year of East High School, were killed while attending a party on Pennsylvania Avenue.

Another 14 people were wounded by gunfire. Two people were trampled as they tried to flee the chaos, according to police. Police said those injuries were not believed to be life-threatening.

As of the afternoon of Sept. 21, four people remained in satisfactory condition at the University of Rochester Medical Center.

“When tragedy strikes, we come together and help those who need it,” Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren wrote in a statement. “If you are suffering, please take advantage of these services. Your community is here for you. Rochester is here for you. Thank you to all those who are offering these critical services to help our community begin to heal.”

The city and the Rochester City School District combined to bring counselors to five R-Centers on Sept. 20 and Sept. 21. Counselors also were available through 211/Lifeline at 211 or (800) 310-1160.

Mourning hung over the city as residents learned what had happened.

“My heart is heavy …,” Willie J. Lightfoot, vice-president of City Council and chair of the public safety committee, wrote on Sept. 19. “I am devastated by the news of more senseless gun violence happening in our city. Two precious lives were lost, 14 people were wounded, and countless numbers have been traumatized.

“I join our community as we grieve alongside the victims and families of those who have been killed or wounded. Gun violence is a pandemic that the city and the ROC Against Gun Violence Coalition have been actively fighting against. … I join the Mayor in begging this community remain calm and exercise restraint, and I ask if anyone has information that could be helpful please share it with the authorities. Pray for our city and for those impacted by this tragedy.”

The Board of Education of the Rochester City School District wrote how the shootings directly affect its students.

“ … Our entire community will have some grieving and healing to do as a result the losses. Not only is this why must we must come together as a community and support those who have suffered loss, but this is also why we must find a way, as a community, to end all of this tragic and senseless violence. 
“Sadly, the period ahead will be a time of tears, anguish, and pain. We must pray for the families suffering from unimaginable loss, but then, at some point, turn our thoughts to imagining how our community might prevent this kind of violence in the future. …”

At a news conference later on Sept. 19, the Rev. Lewis Stewart of United Christian Leadership Ministry , said the community should be as outraged by gun violence as it is toward violence from police on unarmed citizens.

“This mass shooting is horrendous and we need to be outraged by the bloodletting,” he said. “If we are to build the beloved community, then killers must not be a part of our community. They can be redeemed at some point, but we can no longer tolerate it. We can no longer put up with it.”

For some, the numbers of people killed and wounded shooting brought back memories of the triple-homicide in August 2015 outside the Boys & Girls Club.

“It wasn’t somebody driving by,” Capt. Frank Umbrino of the Rochester Police Department Major Crimes Unit said at a media briefing on the evening of Sept. 19. “That doesn’t make it any better.”

For Umbrino, the similarity was the “complete disregard for other people in the immediate area.”

Umbrino said the scene was the site of an invitation-only partyand was not supposed to be a large gathering. However, he said the numbers grew after two other parties on the street broke up. He said between 100 and 200 people ended up at the location of the shooting, although at the time of the briefing he had not found a record of a 911 call prior to the violence.

He said an altercation broke out and at least three or four people began shooting in the front and back yards. He said the shooting went on for more than a minute and more than 40 rounds were fired.

“We have two innocent victims here that were attending a party with friends and unfortunately the lost their lives as a result because three or four individuals decided to carry handguns and pull them out and shoot at a crowd of 100 to 200 people,” Umbrino said.

“It’s a tragedy,” he said. “Their entire life was in front of them. … I feel horrible for the parents.”

Umbrino said the shooting was over by the time police arrived, but officers were faced with multiple people wounded. He said officers carried some people to safety so they could be treated.

On Sept. 21, during the weekly briefing between City Council and RPD command staff, council president Loretta Scott thanked the officers for their response.

Acting Chief Mark Simmons said officers were affected by what they saw. “We’re doing everything we can to bring this to a successful resolution.”

Police are asking that anyone with video of the scene email or call 911 or 311.

Includes reporting by Tyronda James.