‘You become what you think’; Anti-gang advocate says change has to start at home to prevent violence in Bakersfield

Crime Watch

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — After a week of frustration and heartbreak, there are currently no arrests announced in the killing of 32-year-old Shaneva Riley.

Riley, described as a dedicated mother of four who supported her family, was killed in a shooting February 27 at Wayside Park. She was there during a memorial for a relative, when someone fired into the crowd of people gathered there. The Bakersfield Police Department doesn’t believe she was an intended target, but she was the only one killed during the incident.

On Wednesday her family cried out for justice, with The Wendale Davis Foundation organizing a prayer vigil attended by the Kern County District Attorney’s Office, the president of the Bakersfield NAACP, Patrick Jackson, and the group Mothers against Gang Violence.

But even as they pleaded for someone to do the right thing, no suspects have been publicly named and no arrests have been made.

“You would think that everyone would be in an uproar and anxious to turn these type of folk in, that would even think to gun down an innocent person,” said Wesley Davis Jr, the CEO of the foundation. Davis lost his son, Wendale Davis, in 2006. Davis was sitting in car with his girlfriend when a group of men approached him, and one shot him in the head.

Davis Jr. believes that violent mindset — and the reluctance to turn the shooters in — is the result of too many Black youths growing up in bad environments. Broken homes with overwhelmed parents, surrounded by negative influences in real life and in media, with real consequences for children.

“You are what you eat, you become what you think,” said Davis. “If this is all I’m filling up on, bad music, foul language, ‘get your weapon, shoot this, kill that,’ if that’s — I’m waking up to and going to sleep on this, I become that, I believe that kind of crap, then I take on that kind of mindset.”

He said through his work he’s met many young parents who aren’t sure what to do because of their own social situations, and his organization tries to fill the gap, but he believes there needs to be more support to protect kids’ minds at a young age.

Davis said there are others who try to help, but he believes there aren’t enough. His recommendation for officials would be to find a way to support the “boots-on-the-ground” advocates who work directly with these families, from community organizations to school counselors.

“It doesn’t have to me, but guys like me. It doesn’t have to be my organization, but organizations like mine,” said Davis. “We can’t have enough people trying to fill the gap and stand in the gaps, the resources need to be funneled down low.”

Anyone with any information about the Wayside Park shooting can contact the Bakersfield Police Department at (661) 327-7111 or call the anonymous Kern Secret Witness tip line at (661) 322-4040.

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