The first 48 hours are past us now, and the police still don’t have any workable leads on who killed Jaulon “JJ” Clavo – not a good thing in the world of murder investigation.
This wouldn’t be a surprise if the shooting death had been in the dead of night, in a back alley or on a darkened street corner, and if the victim wore the profile that blankets so many of the slain – a criminal, doing something criminal, in a world where only the criminals know and only the criminals see.
Clavo’s life, however, defied the stereotypes. He was a beloved starting cornerback on the beloved Grant High School football team, the 2008 state champion, the pride of the city, the producer of so much NFL talent it could fill a chunk of an NFL starting lineup. Clavo dug school. He aimed to go to college, and that’s where he was headed, as a football player or not.
Rather than at a foreboding time and place and in a questionable circumstance, Clavo was gunned down in the middle of the day and at a well-traveled crossroad, after getting a bite to eat on game day. Around 3:30 p.m. on the Friday he died, and on every weekday, that corner on the northern edge of Strawberry Manor, where Mable Avenue ends at Silver Eagle Road, is alive with people and traffic.
At the same time a few days after the shooting, cars were 10 to 15 deep in both directions, many with hip-hop rhythms booming from their sound systems, all of them required to stop at the flashing red light. Kids and old-timers zipped by on bicycles and on foot. A young man waited for the No. 86 bus. Two women sold oranges on the sidewalk. A poster plastered on a street light read, “Straight Outta Royal Blunts,” a takeoff on the rap album/movie and the popular pot cigars some folks smoke in the neighborhood.
At the intersection, as many as 25 people stopped, walked, biked, stood or sat at any one time, not counting the ones who lived in the few houses at the corner, where an empty field across Silver Eagle fills a two-block stretch.
Assistant Chief Deputy District Attorney Rod Norgaard is in charge of the office’s homicide unit, and he works closely with the team of Sacramento city police detectives working from can’t-see-in-the-morning to find out who killed Clavo. Deep into several days that have turned into can’t-see-at-night, all they had as of Wednesday afternoon was bupkis. And with all the people around last Friday at the crowded intersection, that has Norgaard steamed.
Norgaard called the daylight shooting of Clavo “tragic” and “brutal.” He characterized the slain teen as “a truly innocent victim” who had been doing everything right in his life to make a success of it. And he called the fact nobody who saw the shooting is coming forward – someone who has first-hand knowledge of what happened, who can provide a narrative to patch together the broad outlines of the case – typical.
In a sense, they have to tell people, ‘It’s our community, not yours.’
Assistant Chief Deputy District Attorney Rod Norgaard regarding potential witnesses
“The community is so afraid,” Norgaard said. “Not a single person will step up. Somebody’s got to do it. I know there are people out there. In a sense, they have to tell people, ‘It’s our community, not yours.’ It doesn’t belong to gang members.”
The problem in this case is the problem with every killing that has the undertone of a gang killing. It is the by-product of a culture in the American underclass of non-cooperation with the criminal justice system. You can understand some of it. Cops and the criminal justice system at times have been uneven in the way they do their jobs in African American and Latino neighborhoods. But you can’t understand how the criminal element can scare the moral sense out of the hard-working and law-abiding folks, who make up the majority of the community. You can’t understand how five days after the brazen attack, it appears the bad guys – with their long-standing campaign to “stop snitchin’ ” on the streets, to threaten harm to anybody who cooperates with the police – are winning.
In the past few years, professional football, basketball and baseball players have participated in public-service announcements and in other campaigns aimed at tackling social problems. There have been an estimated 664 million views this year of NFL players speaking out in the effective “No More” campaign against domestic violence and sexual assault. Commentators Howie Long and Darrell Waltrip starred in a Fox Sports public service announcement denouncing bullying. The since-retired Phoenix Suns’ Grant Hill filmed the “Think Before You Speak” message on the thoughtless, negative usage of the word “gay” in street language. Pitcher Felix Hernandez is doing similar work against gay-bashing.
Maybe it’s time sports people jumped in on the murder problem. Maybe it would be helpful if they filmed a PSA to tell people to step up, tell the cops what you know.
Norgaard put it to them and put it to everybody in the community: “You can’t watch a kid who had the whole hope of the community just get taken out, and then do nothing about it.”
Somebody has to step up, for Clavo, for all of them. Make it a slogan for a PSA. All it needs is an athlete to adopt it.
- What: Funeral for slain Grant football player Jaulon Clavo
- When: Saturday, Nov. 28, 10 a.m.
- Where: Calvary Christian Center, 2667 Del Paso Blvd.