A candlelight memorial was held Sunday to remind the Lancaster community that it’s time for a change after a recent spate of gun violence.
Gathered on the steps of the historic courthouse in Lancaster, friends and loved ones remembered Yusuf Abdus-Salaam, 32, who died of multiple gunshot wounds after a shooting last week.
“It means a lot to this family for you to be here tonight and show your support,” said Judy Williams, with Mothers of Murdered Offspring, or MOMO, a group of survivors who support families of murder victims.
Williams said the night was not only for remembering Abdus-Salaam, but for sending a message.
“Black lives do matter, but they have to matter to us first,” she said. “We can’t expect the police to do that or anybody else; it’s got to start with us. It’s more us killing us than anybody else.”
Everyone in the crowd lifted candles and listened to a prayer led by Minister Altheresa Goode-Howard of the Master’s Ministry in Lancaster. Williams said Abdus-Salaam’s death should be a wake-up call.
“You are not supposed to be the same person after this,” she said. “Yusuf’s life and death is supposed to change you. Please allow it to do what it is supposed to do.”
Abdus-Salaam, 32, of Downey Drive in Lancaster, was shot several times Tuesday evening. He was found outside a house on Hampton Road in Lancaster, police said. He later died. His first name was spelled Yusuf by the county coroner but has been spelled Yusef in other records.
He had been free on bond since June, records show, and is one of five men accused in the 2009 beating death of another man. Records show he had convictions dating to 2002 for disorderly conduct, driving under suspension, check fraud and drugs.
Another deadly shooting happened two days earlier, on Oct. 9. Devone Frazier, 30, died after he was found shot and lying in the road on the 900 block of 13th Street. Kenneth Jerome Hood Jr., 19, has been charged with murder in Frazier’s death.
Lancaster County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Doug Barfield has said the shootings are not believed to be random gunplay.
Police have not linked the crimes, but the pair of killings involve potential retaliation from other crimes, records show.
Abdus-Salaam’s sister Tina Thompson-Rivers said the night was an unfortunate representation of reality.
“The reality of things is this is what happens when you live the street life,” she said. “I’m going to miss my brother. We had a bond that no one will ever understand.”
Thompson-Rivers pushed those in attendance to come forward if they know anything about what happened the night her brother was killed.
“I hope one day that the person responsible for this is caught,” she said. “I won’t rest.”
Lancaster Mayor Pro Tempore Tamara Garris said it was yet another example of the battle the city continues to fight and encouraged anyone with information to come forward.
“This is another sad day in our city – another life gone too soon,” she said. “This is a battle that we fight every day to work hard to bridge the gap between law enforcement officers and our citizens. We can’t have our citizens gunned down in the streets.”
Garris said there are too many guns and drugs on the street and that it’s a battle everyone needs to be involved in.
“We as black people need to fix this problem ourselves,” she said. “If we can’t get along, how do we expect other races to join in?”
Lancaster Chief of Police Harlean Carter said she was grieving right along with Abdus-Salaam’s family.
“Yusuf was one of my babies,” she said. She implored those at the memorial to channel their grief into ending the violence.
“It makes no sense,” she said. “It’s not about African-Americans and it’s not about whites, it’s about the human condition, and we all play a role in it. Let’s show our compassion, determination and God-given spirit.”
Abdus-Salaam’s mother, Virginia Bridges, appealed for a change.
“I’m angry,” she said. “This is the second time I’ve had to bury one of my children. We keep hollering about black lives matter, but when will they matter to us?”
At the end of the memorial, eight balloons were released, seven to represent that Abdus-Salaam’s time on earth is complete, and an extra for new beginnings.