OCEANSIDE — The Libby Lake community gathered in a festive celebration of life at Libby Lake Park a year after the tragic March 13, 2013, shooting that took the lives of two teens and seriously injured two other teens.
Shooting survivor David Garcia was one of the speakers at the event. He also participates in the Vista Community Clinic Project REACH student mentoring program, which helped organize the celebration of life.
“The organization wanted to do something with the community that was uplifting, and showed the commitment to wellness in the community,” Lt. Leonard Cosby, Oceanside police, said.
“We don’t want this happening here again.”
About 200 residents and community supporters gathered for music, games and barbecue. Snow cones, popcorn and a K-9 demonstration were also part of the fun. All services were donated for the event.
“The event was very upbeat,” Cosby said. “There were no mixed emotions at all.”
“The community, city and police proactively wanted to do something positive for the community to celebrate youth,” Jimmy Figueroa, REACH project coordinator, said.
“The event celebrated life, and motivated the community to improve now and in the future. It was led by Project REACH students.”
Since last year the neighborhood has made changes for the better.
“There’s more of a cooperative spirit between neighborhood residents, police and different organizations,” Cosby said. “Jimmy Figueroa is doing a wonderful job out there.”
“It has been the youth, Vista Community Clinic staff, residents and the faith-based groups that are in the neighborhood every day and weekend that have done a tremendous job of making Libby Lake neighborhood and park safe and moving forward,” Maria Yanez, of the city Neighborhood Services Department, said.
The REACH mentoring program started back up after the shooting at the request of high school students in the program, who wanted to be positive role models for younger students in the program.
The police are showing a serious increase in presence in identified gang neighborhoods within the city, which include Eastside, Crown Heights and Mesa Margarita, where Libby Lake Park is located.
Officers are following up on gang injunctions, which prohibit identified gang members from congregating, and parole violations.
The shooting last year involved four identified gang members who opened fire on four teens who were not part of a gang.
“It’s an unfortunate circumstance,” Cosby said. “Most people are great family people and want so much more for their kids.”
Work to have more for their families is pulling the community together.
“The tragedy had taken place at the park,” Figueroa said. “We wanted to bring hope into the community. To inspire residents that they have the power to make a difference and the youth have bright futures ahead of them.”
Figueroa said the day to day feeling within the community is hopeful.
“If you went to the park today, or any other day, it’s packed,” Figueroa said.
“Kids are chasing ducks and flying kites.”
Figueroa added there is still a lot of work to be done, and the community is doing that work together.
“There’s a lot of communication now,” he said. “Everyone’s communicating. We’re not waiting for something bad to happen. It’s very refreshing.”