Hundreds Gathered at UCR to Honor Victims of San Bernardino Shootings

Four UCR alumni were among the dead and wounded

About 400 people attended a vigil at UCR Dec. 4Photo by Peter Phun

RIVERSIDE, Calif. ( — About 400 people attended a candlelight vigil near the Highlander Union Building Dec. 4  to honor the victims of the mass shooting in San Bernardino Dec 2, that killed 14 and injured 21, including four UCR alumni.

“These are trying times,” Graduate Student Association president Lewis Luartz told the crowd. “We need to try harder, all of us. We must do our best, not only for our generation, but for the generations that follow.”

The victims with UCR ties were all employees of San Bernardino County’s Department of Health, which had been hosting a holiday party in a conference room at the Inland Regional Center in San Bernardino. One of the employees, Syed Rizwan Farook, 28, and his wife, Tashfeen Malik, were the suspected shooters who later were killed in a shootout with police.

Among the dead were Sierra Clayborn, 27, who graduated from UCR  in 2010 in biochemistry, and 58-year-old Damian Meins, who graduated in Economics in 1978. Meins spent his career in environmental safety. His two daughters are also UCR graduates.

Jennifer Stevens, 22, who graduated this past June in environmental science, was hospitalized, as was Denise Peraza, 27, who earned her master’s degree in Environmental Science at UCR in 2013.

“Those who do not weep, do not see,” Chancellor Kim A. Wilcox said in his remarks, quoting from Victor Hugo.

“We are complex creatures. We see and we feel sorrow. We can see a world that might have been had there not been a shooting. We can also see a future that we collectively can create. While today is a time of tears, I would ask that we also think about our future, and how we individually can make a better future.”

Wilcox reminded the crowd that “we are becoming more closely connected as human beings, more tightly knit. When we talk about changing the world, when we talk about making the world a better place, we are empowered in ways that humans have never been to do that, through our connectedness.”

Other speakers included Vice Chancellor Jim Sandoval, ASUCR President Ashley Harano and UCR Alumni Association President Daniel Kim.

Photo by Peter Phun

Photo by Peter Phun

A lone bagpipe played by Mike Terry, head of UCR’s Pipe Band, closed the somber event as the attendees quietly held their electric candles.

As the crisis unfolded on Dec. 2, the campus was on high alert. UCR Police conferred with other law enforcement agencies about the areas impacted, said John Freese, who is the assistant police chief of UCR’s force, made up of 30 sworn officers certified by the California Commission on Police Officer Standards and Training.

Meanwhile, UCR police vehicles were positioned on sidewalks and uniformed officers patrolled in visible places.

“Today we have members of the police department responding to students who may have concerns about safety on campus, and we have officers pulled in on overtime to provide extra visibility on campus,” Freese said the day after the attack.

In addition, UCR police are trained to respond to any crisis response on campus, including the possibility of an active shooter. “We have a cooperative relationship with the City of Riverside, the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department, and resources if they are needed to be called into service,” said Freese.

The UCR Counseling Center, which has a staff of 10 counselors, saw more students than usual, and UCR phones were busier than normal, as parents called to check on the safety of students, and whether the campus would close. Because there was never any identified threat to the campus, normal operations and classes continued on Dec. 2. But that does not mean that the community was untouched.

“Our community,  and many others, are still in shock from yesterday’s events in San Bernardino,” Chancellor Wilcox said in a note to campus.  “We mourn the senseless loss of life and send our sympathy to those touched by this tragedy, including several members of the UCR family.”

Wilcox also asked people not speculate on the motives for the shooting. “It is important that we avoid falling into Islamophobia or other forms of intolerance, which cause harm to members of our community. During this time of mourning, it is our duty to unite as a community to heal, to help those around us heal, and to seek solutions, together.”

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