This post was originally published on Sacramento Observer

By Antonio R. Harvey

On April 10, Anita Razo lost her son Giovanni Isidro Razo Pizano, well-known as entertainer “DJ Gio,” 31, in a deadly shooting outside of his home in Natomas. Vernon Mulder, 30, died with Pizano.

In the aftermath, Gregory Najee Grimes, who knew DJ Gio, visited Anita Razo to share his condolences and give the mother a “much-needed hug,” she said.

Little did she know the unthinkable would take place three months after Giovanni’s passing.

On July 5, Razo attended a candlelight vigil for Grimes at the Inderkum High School football field in North Natomas. There she consoled his mother, Deborah Lewis Grimes, whose son, 31, was killed by gun violence early the morning of July 4 in downtown Sacramento. The killer remains at large.

At the gathering, Razo sat in the second row of the bleachers near the Lewis and Grimes families.

“I am here to support his family because he was there for mine,” Razo said at the vigil, which attracted up to 400 family members, friends, former football teammates, educators, coaches and co-workers.

Anita Razo holds a photo of her son Giovanni “DJ Gio” Isidro Razo Pizano at a candlelight vigil held for Gregory Najee Grimes on July 5 at Inderkum High School. Grimes, who was killed July 4, and the widely known DJ Gio were friends.

“We are all affected by this (tragedy),” she said.

Grimes’ and Pizano’s deaths are part of a recurring theme over the years in the Sacramento region of parents losing children to gun violence.

Gun violence is aggression committed with the use of firearms such as pistols, shotguns, assault rifles, or fully loaded machine guns, according to Amnesty International, an organization that brings awareness to human rights abuses.

In recent memory, one of the first high-profile gun violence cases involved Sacramento High School football player Deston “Nutter” Garrett, 19. He was shot in his Oak Park home a week before his graduation in June 2016.

Another Sac High football player, Jaylen Betschart, 17, was found shot in a car in the 8300 block of Jackson Road in Sacramento on Oct. 3, 2020. He died at the scene, police said.

Betschart’s homicide was part of a string of gun violence that month that included the shooting of 9-year-old Makaylah Brent, killed while at Mama Marks Park in Del Paso Heights with her family the same day as Betschart’s body was found.

In January this year, Alynia Lawrence was shot and killed while in a parked car near a liquor store near Stockton Boulevard and Lindale Drive. The 17-year-old was a bystander and not the intended target of the shooting, according to officials from the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department.

Just days before Grimes’ death, an anti-gun violence rally was held on the Capitol’s west steps. Razo, who learned June 16 that the alleged antagonist in her son’s slaying was arrested, was a guest speaker.

The event was staged five blocks from where Grimes was shot.

Friends of Sarayah Redmond display a photo of her at the Capitol rally June 30. Redmond, 19, died after being struck by a bullet while watching a movie in an apartment unit Sept. 20, 2020, in Natomas.

Hosted by Organized Voices, the “Peace in the Streets Rally” honored surviving mothers of children lost to shootings in the Sacramento region.

The community rally “addressed the need for youth mentorship and community partnerships to prevent gun violence” and to not rely solely on legislation to combat the problem, said Organized Voices founder and event organizer Elizabeth Kim.

Organized Voices was founded in 2016 as a social justice organization in response to police shootings. It since has expanded to cover broader issues of oppression and civil rights violations with a focus on youth empowerment.

Kim introduced Jennifer Redmond, whose daughter Sarayah Redmond, 19, was killed in a deadly shooting Sept. 25, 2020, in Natomas. Sarayah Redmond was watching a movie when the apartment unit she was in was hit by bullets. Another man was struck by gunfire but survived. Sacramento police have not made an arrest in the cold case.

“I am here today because I am Sarayah,” Redmond said at the rally. “I am her voice and I was forced into this club along with many mothers who lost their loved ones (to gun violence). It’s not a club I want to be a part of … but here I am. I am here so she doesn’t become a cold case, or forgotten. I want everybody to know that what happened to my daughter can happen to yours.”

Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg and Councilwoman Angelique Ashby both noted at Grimes’ vigil that it was not their first time joining the community in mourning and that they feared they would repeat the sympathetic gesture.

“If looking at Najee’s mom, holding Najee’s baby, doesn’t tell you everything about gun violence I don’t know what else to say to you,” Ashby told the young mourners at Inderkum High. “This is heartbreaking. We’ve been to too many of these and I would much rather be at your graduation to celebrate you.”

Like Razo, Dr. Nicole Clavo, the city of Sacramento’s executive director of the Office of Violence Prevention, attended Grimes’ vigil and the Capitol rally. Dr. Clavo’s 16-year-old son J.J. Clavo was shot and killed in November 2015 in North Sacramento, hours before the Grant Union High School student was to play a football game. Clavo said the police removed “1,600 guns off the streets” in 2021. In the first four months of this year, 423 guns were confiscated from the north area of Sacramento.

“That’s 25% of the year’s total,” Dr. Clavo said. “People have to know what their kids are doing. If you pay the phone bill … check their phones. Find out what they are doing and who they are associated with to break this cycle.”

Steinberg said the “narrative needs to change” and “we have to love each other more” to end gun violence.

“We can make the laws and you ought to hold us accountable for that,” Steinberg said. “But together we can change hearts and minds. Only us together can value life. It’s about elevating who we are to value life because the person (who shot Grimes) did not value life. There is no excuse for violence of any kind.”

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