People by the hundreds marched through the modest, aging neighborhoods of South Salt Lake and Central City Saturday morning, past yard sales and yard work and the occasional gang graffito scrawled on a wall.
Their message was twofold. To the gangs: Stop the killing. To the government: Stop letting criminals go free.It was an encore demonstration to a vigil held last month for Ronald "Bo" Zahorka, who was gunned down on Feb. 3 while using a pay phone at a gas station, 315 E. 3900 South.
This time, the vigil took to the streets, as Zahorka's friends and relatives, along with other concerned citizens, walked six miles from the crime scene to the state Capitol to rally against gang violence. They carried signs that read, "Be a Brother Not a Color," "Stop The Fear. Volunteer" and "You Do the Crime, You Do the Time."
"It's a start," said Colleen Pursifull, the victim's sister. "Maybe we can make a difference. If we don't get out there and do something, we're going to be another Vegas or Los Angeles."
Pursifull, who is disabled, "marched" in a wheelchair donated by a local medical equipment company. A sign on her wheelchair said, "BAG Violence," which is short for "Brothers Against Gang Violence," a citizens group organized recently by Lonnie Pursifull, Zahorka's nephew.
Lonnie Pursifull said he formed the group to prevent vigilantism, which he sensed was imminent in the wake of the rising tide of gang-related killings, maimings and fear.
"There's a lot of people who want to start taking matters into their own hands," he said. "The government needs to get off its butt."
Pursifull and other marchers decried the lack of prison space, particularly for juvenile offenders. Anthony Martin Archuleta was on "house arrest" when he allegedly shot and killed Zahorka.
The state should invest more money in the criminal justice system, he said.
Archuleta, who just turned 17, was originally charged as an adult with murder, a first-degree felony. Last week, prosecutors dropped that murder charge and referred the case to juvenile court pending a Utah Supreme Court case challenging the law that gives prosecutors power to "direct-file" adult charges against juveniles.
In the meantime, prosecutors will try to get the juvenile court to certify Archuleta as an adult in the murder case.
Pursifull is eyeing the situation warily. "As long as they go back to adult court, OK, but if they end up going through the juvenile system, there'll be hell to pay."
Though Saturday's event was billed as a "walk for peace and justice," it took a political turn with the appearances of Rep. Karen Shepherd, D-Utah, who is seeking re-election, and Republican challenger Enid Greene Waldholtz. Stumpers for another Republican candidate, Jim Foley, carried campaign signs along the march route.
About a dozen people from the Utah Shooting Sports Council carried signs reading, "Crime Control, Not Gun Control." Council member Michael Megeath said his group was there to add support to anti-gang measures that do not infringe upon the rights of law-abiding citizens to own guns.