OCEANSIDE — Hundreds gathered for the second annual Libby Lake Celebration of Life that marks the anniversary of a fatal park shooting.
Lt. Leonard Cosby has worked as a Libby Lake community police officer for close to 20 years.
He was the watch commander the night of the shooting.
“Hearing the calls, and hearing the officers come on scene and describe what they were seeing and what they were hearing was tragic and terrible,” Cosby said.
Cosby said gang members often use the anniversaries of shootings as an excuse to partake in excessive drinking and drug use. This usually results in irresponsible acts.
The goal of the annual event is to change the meaning of the day.
“It can lead to the absolute worse things, we want to flip it and give it a positive meaning,” Cosby said. “Police and different organizations are coming out to provide positive direction, so kids don’t feel trapped and dead-ended.”
The celebration brought the community together for free food, music, games and information on community resources March 13.
Young children enjoyed the bounce house, face painting and police K-9 demonstration.
Teens took a moment to gather with friends, reflect and visit the memorial site that honors the shooting victims.
“They’re of course remembering this event has it roots in a double homicide where two teenagers were brutally murdered two years ago,” Cosby said. “They’re also looking at the community the way it is today. It’s a community, I think, on the verge of breaking out.”
Two years ago a 15-year-old boy and 13-year-old girl were gunned down, and two other teens sustained serious injuries, when they were gathered at a memorial that was erected in the park to honor earlier shooting victims.
At that time the park had become a place that gang members and gang affiliates gathered, as well as a meet-up spot for teens. Cosby said police frequently called parents to pick up teenagers who were out after curfew.
“It became widely known that this is a place where young people would come to gather, meet, reminisce and do drugs,” Cosby said.
Since the shooting the city has cleared excess brush and added lights to the park.
Cosby said these efforts have deterred gangs from hanging out there, and now the park is filled with families again.
Cosby said another big step forward is that police, city neighborhood services, community nonprofits and church groups have developed a stronger collaboration and wider safety net for families and youth. He said this has resulted in more people seeking support services.
“There are still issues the community faces, and we want to help them solve those issues,” Cosby said.
Teens in the Vista Community Clinic REACH program are working to better the neighborhood. They mentor younger children, pitch in for weekly park cleanups and are finalizing plans to paint park murals.