STOCKTON — A steady stream of sobs from a mother now missing her 3-year-old daughter — a daughter taken by a drive-by bullet while she was driving with her family on the streets of Stockton Sunday.
“It was her baby. Her baby, is my baby, her baby is your baby,” said Bernice Bass from the podium at the vigil in Martin Luther King Jr. Plaza.
“Just knowing the pain of losing a child. My sister just lost two,” she said.
Now little Melanie Martinez’s city is trying to absorb some of her mother’s pain, surrounding her, her husband and the rest of their family with light and the hope of support through the worst of times.
“I know you have victory right now, in the name of Jesus to cover us right now, to give us all strength to come together. When you see something going on in your community, I need you to call 911. We need not to be afraid to call the police,” said Bass.
Melanie is Stockton’s latest homicide victim — the 40th for 2016 — and the city’s mayor is pledging to fight a tide of a violence that could take the town back up to 71 such killings in a year.
“This is your city. This is our city. And if we want to take our cities back, we have to make a stand right now,” said Stockton Mayor Anthony Silva.
Melanie’s father Lino found the strength to speak to those at the vigil for a few moments.
“I really thank everyone for coming. I don’t know what to say,” he said.
Melanie’s aunt remembers a child full of promise.
“She was a very sweet girl, very close to her family, very much so with her mom and her dad. She has a baby sister, 1-year-old, and she’ll be deeply missed,” said Laura Garcia.
Tanya Hinkel said she just had to come out for Melanie.
“I have two daughters myself. I couldn’t imagine losing them especially in that way. I just felt touched to be here.”
Melanie was shot in the intersection of Commerce and Jackson streets in Stockton.
Investigators believe the bullets that killed her were fired from either a black Monte Carlo with tinted windows or a dark Chevy Camaro.
If you know anything about those cars or this crime, Stockton police want to hear from you.