Vigil honors slain south side teen, family calls for more safety efforts
The Youngstown community gathered Tuesday evening in Homestead Park, the same park 16 year old Isaiah Walker was fatally shot last week.
"He wasn't lying, he wasn't going out there partying, he was trying to play basketball with his friends," said Marvin Walker, Isaiah's father, to the crowd Tuesday.
Local faith and school leaders told 21 News this vigil was more like a rally to encourage law enforcement and Youngstown lawmakers to do more to protect the streets.
Marvin Walker begged for more policing and activities for children to keep them away from violence.
"What are you all going to do after this?" Walker asked. "What are you all going to do for the people that just got killed after my son?"
Walker explained he often told Isaiah he did not like him going to the Homestead Park area because it brought in the wrong crowd. He told the vigil participants Isaiah was previously "bullied and robbed at the park before."
"This area's been rough," said Roberto Espada, Homestead Ave. resident for 17 years. "When I moved here 17 years ago, it wasn't like this. They had community meetings and we had watch programs. They stopped doing everything. Now, kids are coming in, they start fighting and they pull guns."
While there are visible security cameras attached to the brick building in Homestead Park, Espada and Walker both said they do not work. Espada added the park's lights are on past midnight, which encourages kids to stay out into the late night hours.
Faith leaders told 21 News this gathering felt different because young Isaiah was a good student. An "innocent life," on the right path to start college courses next semester while still in high school.
"A lot of his friends and peers were drawn to him," said Tara Amill, Assistant Principle with Youngstown Rayen Early College High School. "He was determined to finish the program at Youngstown Rayen Early College successfully. He was just your typical kid. He was fun, he made everyone laugh, he was silly, he was infectious."
Amill added the school did not have any knowledge of Isaiah being involved in any negative influences or affiliations.
"He wasn't one of the kids who was skipping school, who didn't care about education, who didn't want to do anything," explained Rafael Cruz, Pastor at Unity Baptist Church. "He wanted to do something and he was working on that. That was just taken away from him."
"This is one crime we had to respond to," Pastor Cruz said. Cruz added Isaiah was always helpful to his neighbors and excelled in school. "His innocent life was taken too soon because somebody is out of control," Cruz added.
As the crowd released purple and black balloons to honor Isaiah, there was a vow to the teenager, for the community to take more imitative to stop the ongoing and increasing violence.
"We need to encourage our youth and our adults to work collaboratively with our community organizations, schools and police department," Amill added. "Families shouldn't worry about coming to the park to play."
"Violence has become normal and we need to stop accepting that as normal," Cruz said. "When you talk about the violence in Youngstown, people's response is, 'well, it's Youngstown.' We need to change that mentality. We need to say this is my town and I'm not accepting that in my town anymore."
"We have to do more," Marvin Walker said. "You all have to do better. I did everything I could to save my child."
Cruz suggested neighbors speak with youth more about leading down a safe path and to assist single parents in raising Youngstown youth. "Of course we need to pray, but we need to get involved to work on a solution," Cruz said.
There are no suspects in the death of Isaiah Walker. Contact YPD or Crimestoppers at 330-746-CLUE for any leads on the case. You can remain anonymous.