Del Paso Heights Stands Up Against Violence

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DEL PASO HEIGHTS--

With words of supplication and solace, the community of Del Paso Heights wrapped its arms around itself Tuesday.

They crowded into Allen Chapel trying to pray away what's behind the kind of gun violence that wounded Grant Union High School football player Malik Johnson Friday and killed his fellow defensive back J.J. Clavo.

The chant "Live and Let Live" echoed through the chapel as just one of the messages delivered in the face of a disturbing case police are still trying to solve.

Clavo and Johnson were shot while making a food run before a home playoff game with Beyer High school.

Though investigators will not comment on the possibility, some believe it's a shooting that was triggered by the area's Strawberry Manor gang.

"There was a hit put on me by the Mexican mafia," said Carlos Espinoza as he described the wage he earned with his own gang affiliation and dedication to a disruptive way of life.

Twenty-two years clean, sober and out of any gang, he understands the draw those groups have on streets in Sacramento's Del Paso neighborhood.

"Yes there's the Strawberry Manors over here," said Espinoza. "The draw to gang life was basically the glamour, the family-type environment will encircle you with love."

He reaches out to those searching for that love through the 'Big Homie' program at Calvary Christian Center.

"My cousin just died. He was gang banger and everybody loved him. I don't know why we have to kill, fight argue," shared 13-year-old DeeDee as ministers praying for Del Paso Heights handed the mic over to the youth.

Shouted affirmations of the good things in the area like 'pride' and 'perserverance' were offered as part of the panacea, while people prayed over young people who may be feeling what Espinoza once did.

The faithful also walked the streets around Grant High, praying protection over the campus and the community.

It's faith put into action that they hope will make a change.

"It's important because this keeps happening to our youth and the violence needs to stop. It needs to stop someway...some how," said 19-year-old Makayla Smith.

Smith and others are starting a new Twitter hashtag #LiveAndLetLive.

Their point - that children in Del Paso Heights and beyond should be allowed to live safely long enough to grow up.

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