Mister Harriel grew up in a rough-and-tumble South Sacramento neighborhood. Crime and violence were part of his young environment. Later, he broke the law and landed in state prison. Today, however, Mister is a respected community activist who wears other hats, from basketball coach and trainer to mentor, businessperson and youth advocate. Mister and I conducted the following phone interview in the aftermath of Sacramento’s worst mass shooting.
Seth Sandronsky: What brought you to downtown Sacramento after the mass shooting that killed six people, three females and three males, and wounded 12, last Sunday morning?
Mister Harriel: I got a text message from one of my mentors that there was a shooting downtown. We hurried there to calm the situation and to be with the families. At the time, families were distraught. They were upset and very emotional. We were there to support and to help them. We were also there to deescalate any situation between the police and families. Because we are in this community together, we have to stick together. Sometime things happen to cause divisions and for people to react on their emotions.
SS: In terms of calming tactics, what worked in the mass shooting aftermath?
MH: Showing sympathy, empathy and understanding to the families of victims. We do feel for everybody, though such acts of violence have long happened where we grew up. We try to make sure that law enforcement understands that families are grieving, and the crowd is going through that process, too.
SS: Moving forward, what is your sense of where things stand after the terrible tragedy in California’s capital city?
MH: People of different backgrounds killed and injured left the city on high alert. We have to come up with the solution to try to stop the violence. We need new gun laws and stricter enforcement. Gun violence is a bigger problem that we could ever have fathomed. We need more resources. That is why we are trying so hard to be here for the people, the community, youth, and for everybody to find common ground. We need peace and change and to work together. It is the only way to make that happen.
SS: What concrete policy proposals do you support after the April 3 shooting?
MH: For city officials, finding out where the guns originate is important. Buying back guns is important. Guns are at the top of the list for reducing violence. Educating the youth, giving them an understanding that it is not cool to pull out a gun or shoot another person. There are people who glorify that. The message that violence is unacceptable needs to become common knowledge. Education is the key.