BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — After two different shootings left one woman dead and at least two other people wounded just a few miles apart, local community advocate Arleana Waller says support for Bakersfield’s Southeast communities is long overdue.
“There’s innocent children being affected every single day, it is our responsibility as adults to stop this senseless crime, and we need to look inward first,” said Waller, in a plea to Bakersfield’s community.
On Saturday a woman was shot and killed during a large memorial at Wayside Park. She has not officially been identified, but Waller said the victim has 5 children. No arrests have been made.
That same night, hours after the city celebrated Black History Month with an online showcase, another shooting wounded two people at Martin Luther King Jr. Park during a large gathering. According to BPD, they believe a large part of the crowd went to Kern Medical after the shooting, leading to fights in the parking lot and the entrance to the hospital being blocked. Bakersfield Police had to break up the crowd with the help of the Sheriff’s Office and California Highway Patrol. At least 3 people were arrested, and one man, Clifford Givan, now faces firearm and gang charges in connection to the shooting.
Waller is with the MLK CommUnity Initiative, an outreach group based in Southeast Bakersfield. The area, included in Kern County’s large 93307 zip code, consistently outpaces the rest of Kern County in homicides, according to data from KGET’s Homicide Tracker.
Waller says she and other community members have tried for years to help the community around MLK Park rebound, but she does not believe there has been enough support from officials.
“When you look at the last 30 years, this area has not received resources, much support, leadership hasn’t been present in that area,” said Waller.
So while calling for community members to hold each other responsible for the safety of each other, Waller also says there needs to be aggressive action to bring more support to the community and help others “who have been boots-on-the-ground,” working to fix the social issues that have plagued Southeast Bakersfield for decades.
“When you have these kinds of situations it’s really a setback,” said Waller, “but we have to understand why they’re happening. I think we have to get to the root of the problem and I think that doesn’t always lie with the residents.”
Anyone with information on the Wayside Park shooting can contact BPD at (661) 327-7111 or contact Secret Witness at (661) 322-4040.