Monday, October 20, 2008

Girl Killed By Stray Bullet In Hunters Point

Family's efforts couldn't keep girl from harm

Jaxon Van Derbeken, Chronicle Staff Writer

Monday, October 20, 2008

Jonisha Tucker caught a 5:45 a.m. bus every school day to make a 1 1/2-hour trip to George Washington High in the Richmond District, taking her far from her housing project in San Francisco's Bayview-Hunters Point neighborhood.

Family members hoped the school - along with their supervision - would protect her from the drugs, gangs and violence surrounding the Alice Griffith housing development, where the 16-year-old girl grew up with her mother and two older brothers.

It didn't.

Drawn to watch a fight just blocks from her home last week, the random violence that her family feared found her: Police said a 14-year-old boy fired a shot during the neighborhood scrap, killing Jonisha.

"It's sad," said Inspector Dennis Maffei of the San Francisco Police Department homicide detail. "This girl was an angel. She was taken from us by another child who should not have been playing with or handling guns."

The alleged shooter, a boy who lived in the neighborhood, is being held on murder charges in connection with her death, authorities said. Police said Jonisha was an unintended victim.

Her 26-year-old brother, Larry Barefield, said he tried to watch over her. He would not talk about what happened Tuesday night.

"I always tried to keep Jonisha out of harm's way," Barefield said softly, laying a bouquet of roses on a makeshift memorial outside the family's home. "I wish they had more activities to do, instead of letting these kids hang out, letting 14- and 15-year-old kids walking around with weapons, feeling like they have to protect themselves. It shouldn't be that way."

Growing up in tough area

Jonisha, known to her friends as J-Ray, was raised in one of the city's toughest housing developments, also known as Double Rock, near Candlestick Park.

Her mother, Annette McClendon, pushed to move the family of four into a larger unit, and eventually succeeded when Jonisha was 5 years old. McClendon was too distraught to be interviewed for this story.

As a youngster, Jonisha worked at the nearby Double Rock community garden.

"She weeded, planted vegetables," said Jacqueline Williams, who manages the garden. "She was a go-getter. She would take care of everything. She was good at it, too."

Dennis Molina, a neighbor who watched Jonisha grow up, said the girl had a natural ability to relate to others.

"She had a mind of her own, and she was a leader," Molina said. "She had this confidence about herself. It came from her mom, from her family."

Strong athlete, 'big heart'

Jonisha played basketball at Luther Burbank Middle School. She competed against boys in three-on-three community tournaments. The front room of her home is filled with trophies. Last year, she teamed up with two boys and took first place in the community competition.

"She was tough, very tough - like a man," Barefield said. "She had a big heart."

Molina agreed.

"She's a tough one. She'd take on the guys down here," he said, pointing to the project basketball courts.

When it came time for Jonisha to go to high school, her family decided she should go a well-regarded school. They settled on George Washington, at 32nd Avenue and Geary Boulevard.

Jonisha started to rebel. Her grades suffered in the ninth grade, but she still made the trip each morning to the school. Molina said he rode the bus with her.

"I saw her on the bus - she went to school every single day," he said.

She didn't want to join the school basketball team, either. The coach asked her to play, but she declined, saying the team was not good enough.

Her brother said he tried to tell her that she would make the team better, but he couldn't convince her.

This year, she seemed to get the idea of why her family wanted her to go to Washington. She started getting better grades, Barefield said.

Shots fired in clash

On Tuesday night, police say, Jonisha ran outside with her friends to break up a fight outside her home on Double Rock Street. Her mother went outside as well, but the two became separated. Jonisha left on her own with friends and went several blocks away to Hollister Avenue, near Third Street.

It was there, police say, that another fight was about to explode. Groups of youths converged, and an unknown teenage boy fired a gun into the air. Police say the weapon was soon in the hands of another boy, a 14-year-old who was already on juvenile probation for brandishing a weapon that turned out to be a BB gun.

What happened next is unclear, but the boy fired a shot, police say. The bullet hit Jonisha in the head. It was 7:37 p.m.

In seconds, investigators who happened to be nearby rushed to the scene as the youths scattered.

Jonisha was taken to San Francisco General Hospital. She died two days later.

Maffei said witnesses helped identify the shooter, who was detained Tuesday night. He told investigators the gun went off as he was running with it.

Police say they haven't determined whether the boy fired the gun by accident or whether he intentionally fired it and hit Jonisha by mistake.

Maffei said Jonisha was not involved in the clash.

The veteran homicide inspector was devastated by Jonisha's death.

"Her mom said she loved her and did all she could to protect her," Maffei said.

"For me, a cop of nearly 32 years, you think after a while that things won't touch your heart. Then, something like this: It breaks your heart all over again."

At the projects where Jonisha lived, neighbors held candlelight vigils in her memory last week. They created a memorial of candles, stuffed teddy bears and photos behind her home.

Under a photo of Jonisha, a mourner left a message: "We miss and love you J-Ray."

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Anonymous said...

its pretty pathetic some of the people on the blog for this article on sfgate. mass assumptions, self rightiousness, and borderline racism and classism as well. this is part of the reason such violence exists. people take knowlage for understanding and expierence. they have actually know idea what people in a city with radical class polarity go through, they project there opinions onto others and take it as some sort of cultural or sociological evidence. i have lost 3 friends over the past 2 years over gun violence, thats not some sort of credential for me saying all this, but i know how that feels. it just aggrovates me when people get so off topic with such a sensative regard for others but themselves. im sick of that in this city. much love to her loved ones, no one needs to loose a child that young, no matter what the reason or cause for the circumstances. and people need to start to respect that if they want this to stopped.

Anonymous said...

amen to tired of people that think they know everything.. i'd like to see the people that talk mess go thru a day in one of those peoples lives and see how it feels..

Anonymous said...

Jonesia was serious, hardworking, and a self thinker at Bret Harte elementary school. Her friends were pretty much like her and she was not easily swayed by others opinions. Unfortunately, she was in the wrong place at the wrong time; however, God was ready for her. Too bad, non profit CEOs and Founders who are supposed to help impoverished students seems to miss the core problematic seed of violence leading to death in places like Double Rock and Bayview. With such determined individuals like Jonesia who traveled far from home to school seeking education somehow is missed by the mission and vision of non-profits organizations. Missed in the sense that CEOs and top Administrators line their deep pockets with the cash coming from philantropists, city, state, and federal government that should hit the streets of Alice Griffith Projects, Harbor Road,Valencia Gardens, etc. The point is let the big bucks trickle down to the streets by making it possible to give these youths a ticket out of the war zones and expose them to cultures such as Boarding Schools on the East Coast, especially if they are great prospects and parents and older siblings can be convinced that this is the ticket out of the ghetto. The money seems to hit areas like the Sunset, i.e. school like A.P. Giannini, Lowell H.S., etc. Recruitment should take place of students who show a hunger to learn and tutors should be provided for after school homework completion by certified teachers, then activities such as board games, sports, i.e. basketball, soccer, softball, baseball, football and even powder puff football or tag football. Make the playing field level for African American Youth. An after school program such as the Beacon should be at the Alice Griffith Club House channeled through the YMCA for elementary and High School students. Curfews should be in place set by the San Francisco Police Department for children in War Zones or potential targeted crime areas. What are non profits like Preachers And Churches Together (PACT) doing over in the Western Addition. Lets hit the streets Preachers, Teachers, Non-Profit CEOs and Wanabes to save our YOUTHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! We as Saints, Christians, Religious folk talk a good game in the pulpit and we preach to each other every Sunday and at mid week Wednesday night Bible Study and our Youths from 10 and up are killing their peers, Ridiculous and Senseless. Lets come out of the Churches and ban together, stop competing with each other and collaborate in a more healthy way that God will be well pleased with. I could go on and on but lets stop faking the funk and reach out to our parents and youth to try and convince them to go down to S.F.U.S.D., gather around the round table and make the educational playing field available and equal to all who suffers economically, socially and academically. To The Family of Jonesia, turn this into good by being advocates locally, statewide and nationally. Remind the preachers nearby, teachers, administrators at Bret Harte, Kipp Academy, The Former Gloria R. Davis School and other Non-Profit CEOs and Founders to rally together and make a change in Double Rock, Hunters Point, Valencia Gardens, the Western Addition, etc.... We Can Do It Better All Together. Hold a town meeting and appoint strong lobbyist to go to Sacramento and Washington, D.C. to give determined students a chance to get out of S.F. and be exposed to better educational opportunities.