SANTA CRUZ — It has been 5 years since Sara Coon awoke to information that her buddy had been murdered in an apparently mindless spat.
Even after listening to rumors of the taking pictures, Coon prevented leaving her room for so long as she may on Aug. 23, 2015, not wanting affirmation that 24-year-old Joey Shuemaker had, the truth is, been shot useless shortly after 8 a.m. on the San Lorenzo River levee. The 2 had spoken simply the night time earlier than, Shuemaker eerily predicting to Coon that, “You by no means know, I would die tomorrow.”
Round 6 p.m., Coon lastly grabbed her bicycle and headed out from the Web page Smith Neighborhood Home. Hours after, yellow crime scene tape was nonetheless strung throughout the world not removed from the Riverwalk Plaza. She collapsed close by, giving in to the tears.
For the previous 5 years, Coon has sought to maintain the reminiscence of her buddy alive by quite a lot of memorials, all centered round a levee mild pole. She has planted flower beds with mulching and infrequently washable chalk and paints messages, “RIP Joey.” Initially, Coon stated she sought to place a formal memorial on the web site for Shuemaker, reaching out to each Santa Cruz county and metropolis Parks and Recreation officers for choices. She stated she was supplied an opportunity to spend hundreds to buy a memorial bench or lots of to purchase a plaque — each of which might be positioned at parks “none of us heard of (or) the place Joey’s by no means been.”
“I been attempting to get a memorial for him finished as a result of he beloved it right here in Santa Cruz and he was taken earlier than his time in an act of violence,” Coon wrote in an electronic mail to the Sentinel. “Everybody else appears to have everlasting memorials and benches, why can’t he?”
Coon stated her varied unsanctioned memorials to Shuemaker have been systematically ripped up, painted over and even had cement poured on prime of them, Coon stated. Over time, Coon stated she has found that opposition to her efforts isn’t coming from metropolis clean-up crews; she believes it’s one personal citizen’s work.
“It’s like he goes out of his method to destroy the whole lot I’ve finished,” Coon stated. “And I’m the one one who pays for the supplies for the memorial and being single and on incapacity, it will get pricey. It could be one factor if I made it look gross or soiled however I clear up round Joey’s space and that a part of the levee is revered by the homeless they usually don’t trash it they usually assist hold it clear for Joey.”
Strolling the stroll
Coon has no illusions about Shuemaker, saying he was identified for being overly involved about his reputation and appears and may very well be abrasive, “the man who would steal your stolen stuff and provides it again to you sort individual.”
“If Joey didn’t such as you, he would let you recognize,” Coon stated. “He was the one that may stroll the stroll (and) discuss the discuss, which, in the long run, received him killed.”
Nonetheless, Coon stated, Shuemaker would all the time stick up for the underdog — even when that meant getting right into a struggle to show his level. Previous to his demise, Shuemaker had been homeless. In keeping with Coon, he had arrived in Santa Cruz a few yr earlier, on the lookout for a contemporary begin. The 2 had first met in Santa Barbara County years earlier than.
“I’ve spent over $3,000 within the final 5 years to maintain Joey’s reminiscence alive and make an announcement that homeless individuals are individuals too and that we will’t simply neglect about them, particularly since he was murdered,” Coon stated. “His demise wasn’t a gang turf struggle or over medication, it had nothing to do with any of that, it was principally over a struggle over a lady.”
Shuemaker’s killers, Nino Martin Ruiz and girlfriend Jenessa Kic, each of Santa Cruz, have been arrested and charged with homicide the identical day Shuemaker died. Shortly after, the Metropolis of Santa Cruz enacted a policy prohibiting loitering in unmarked areas alongside the river, together with these areas usually occupied by homeless people. Jurors then went on to convict both defendants in July 2019 and the 2 have been every given life sentences in prison.
“It was onerous for all of us at the moment,” stated Coon, who was previously homeless. “Although Joey wasn’t preferred by everybody, he was nonetheless a part of the homeless group and again then we have been extra like a giant household. And to have him killed by one other homeless over some silly drama made it worse.”
Shuemaker’s brother, William Shuemaker, stated the 2 had damaged off contact three years previous to Joey’s demise, however had heard that he was in Santa Cruz “attempting to be his personal man and to get on his toes” on the time of his demise.
“He’s upstanding. He was very caring,” William Shuemaker stated. “He cared about everybody else and put everybody earlier than him. It’s onerous to see him go.”