Scenes from the aftermath in Oakland:
stories of victims, survivors and healers.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

No Due Process for the Dead, Part 1: Allegations

Part 1: Allegations
Often, when a homicide victim in Oakland is very young or otherwise outside the common demographic categories of most victims -- that is, when the deceased is not an African American man between the ages of 18 and 34 -- I will see on Twitter or Facebook or elsewhere that someone has begun a GoFundMe campaign, or some other fundraising effort, to "help the family pay for the funeral.' 

Edward McGowan's obituary
It is a very kind thing to do, but in most of those cases, the families don't need help with funeral expenses. The Victims of Crimes office (VOC) of the Office of the Alameda District Attorney can quickly arrange to pay for the expenses that come in the immediate aftermath of a homicide. There is as much as $5,000 available to survivors to pay for funerals.  

But, if the victim was killed while allegedly committing a crime himself, then there is no financial help available. And there is no due process for the dead, certainly no swift one just when the family needs it. If the police say the victim was committing a crime, then the family is out of luck and on their own.

Because he was killed in a gunfight, in which allegedly he wounded his own killer, you wouldn't have heard much about the struggles of the family of 17-year-old Edward McGowan. Outside his own family and large group of friends, he wouldn't have inspired much lingering general sympathy in Oakland, where he grew up, and attended Frick Middle School and Fremont High. Certainly you would have seen no fundraising efforts on his family's behalf.

But because Edward was said to be in possession of a gun, and to have fired that gun in the course of a drug sale gone bad, they are precisely the kind of family that could use some help. It took two weeks for them to scrape together what was needed to bury their son. It must have been a long two weeks. At Edward's well-attended funeral on Friday at the Chapel of the Chimes, you could see and hear the suffering of his family, the same kind of suffering you would encounter at the funeral of any homicide victim, no matter the circumstances of their deaths or the facts of their lives. I'll have a longer piece about Edward and about this issue of VOC aid being denied certain families soon, about how we might think we know something about the lives people live, or lived, but that often our conclusions about them and their families, including our subconscious ones, are based on ignorance.

However, for now, if you wish to help Edward's family and others like them, I suggest you give to either Youth Alive or the Khadafy Washington Foundation for Non-Violence, both of Oakland. (I am a board member of the latter.) The founder of the Khadafy Washington Foundation, Marilyn Harris, has been helping all families of just about every victim in Oakland for 15 years now. Staff of Youth Alive also work to assure the families get the help they need. Either of these non profits could use your help.

Donate to Youth Alive.
Donate to The Khadafy Washington Foundation for Non-Violence.

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