It was dark and chilly on Bartlett Street Sunday night, but still the street hummed. Puff Daddy’s “I’ll Be Missing You” blared from a parked car, all of its doors opened to the scene of adults, many in San Francisco 49ers gear, crying, hugging and mingling. Small children bent down to light candles at the temporary altar where nearly one week ago, police found 28-year-old Maurice White with fatal shots to his back and neck.
Two days later, Vincent Jacobo, who was the victim’s 56-year-old roommate, pled not guilty to murder and will return to court in November. He is being held without bail in County Jail Number 4 at 850 Bryant Street and declined to be interviewed for this article.
According to court documents, Jacobo’s mother is Maria Herrera, who is White’s grandmother. Maria Herrera denied that Jacobo was her son, saying, “Vincent used to call me ‘mom,’ but all the kids who come here call me that,” adding that she did not know why Jacobo would list her as such on official records.
Maria Herrera’s son, Isidor Herrera, also lives at 1130 Valencia Street and was also listed in court documents as Jacobo’s brother.
“He didn’t have no place to stay, no family” Maria Herrera said as she explained why Jacobo lived at 1130 Valencia with her and her family. “It makes no sense…He helped around the house.”
Herrera believes Jacobo must have called her grandson for help the night he was murdered because White would not have left the house at the hour unless someone had called him for help. She does not believe that Jacobo actually needed help. “No, I think it was premeditated,” she said.
“Maurice was always helping people around the neighborhood. That was just the kind of kid he was,” she continued.
Maria Herrera said that Jacobo, who she often referred to as “Vince,” used to called White “Jr” or “Bro.”
On Sunday, however, it was Maurice White, who was on the minds of the 60 or so friends and family members gathered at the informal candlelight vigil. Many of those attending the vigil were eager to share their memories.
“My son was loved. He was truly loved,” said Elizabeth Herrera, White’s mother. “You can see that by all the people here. Even his teachers came out.”
White attended Galileo Academy of Science & Technology, where he was known for his athleticism. He played varsity football as a sophomore, and also played basketball, baseball, soccer, wrestling, his mother said, beaming with pride.
“Sports kept my sons off the street,” she said.
Once he left high school, however White’s life became more difficult. Court records show multiple run-ins with police, and at least one conviction for possession of a controlled substance in late 2011. His grandmother said that he spent a month of two in jail at one point, but could not recall exactly when or why that happened.
Maria Herrera said White worked after high school as a security guard and a bouncer, but that he also had a record “for stupid things.”
At the vigil, however, his friends and family focused on the good times and what made White special.
Johnny Herrera, White’s first cousin, said that White was more like a brother to him than a cousin. Herrera, a few years younger than White, spent a year or so at Galileo with White where they wrestled and played baseball together.
“I was with him in this neighborhood everyday,” Johnny Herrera said. “He had charisma. He will never be forgotten.”
White’s nephew, who once lived with White, said that his uncle was always trying to help him become a better person.
“He always told me to never quit something,” his nephew said.
Many spoke of White’s altruism and kind heart. When family friend Marcella Flores’ daughter was shot in the back outside their home at Keith Street and Shafter Avenue in Bayview a year ago, White helped her walk again.
Flores said that White had been shot in the stomach a few years earlier and knew how to help her daughter.
“He helped everyone,” Flores said. “He would walk people home who were in the street and looked like they needed help. I don’t see how this could have happened to him because he could not hold a grudge.”
Maria Herrera told Mission Local earlier that White and Jacobo did not always get along. Only a few months ago, the two got into a fight and White punched him, she said. Nine days later, she explained that she was referring to a fight that had happened a few months ago. She recalled that Jacobo had been trying to play with her great granddaughter, Jada, but who the family calls ‘Bobo,’ while the three-year-old was visibly upset.
“Vincent picked her up that day and twirled her around, but she was screaming, and Maurice came out and said ‘It’s no holding, she’s not laughing,’ but Vincent started twirling her again, and that’s when the fighting started,” she remembered.
Since that fight, she had not heard of any other conflicts between the two men.
Jacobo has had multiple run-ins with the law throughout his life.
Around the age of 19, he was convicted for murder in 1976. District Attorney Scot Clark told the court this at Jacobo’s first court appearance for White’s murder on Oct. 17, according to the San Francisco Appeal. It is unclear how long he spent in prison and while other charges followed, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation declined to give any information on what charges ended in convictions because Jacobo is currently under investigation for a new crime.
Jacobo was arrested late Monday on the same day of the shooting while walking on Valencia Street between 22nd and 23rd Streets. He was on the block where he lived with his nephew as well as his mother – who is also his nephew’s grandmother – on the second floor of 1130 Valencia St.
As the song on Bartlett Street changed to a rap number and more people filled the street, family members and friends began to share small details of White’s life.
Fredo Flores, White’s cousin, said that if he could see White one more time, he would tell him, “I gave you hell about not being able to unscrew grandpa’s door hinge, but I know you have the strongest upper cut I’ve ever heard of. Love you, cousin.”
Nearby Otis Herrera, White’s brother, held onto Hudari Murray, White’s football coach from Galileo, and sobbed into his shoulder.
He took a deep breath, and turned from Murray, still holding on. “I’m ready,” he said.
“He was definitely a king amongst kings in the community, on the football field, everywhere,” Otis Herrera said.
Murray added, “As a tenth grader, he was one of the best I’ve ever seen come through Galileo…It’s hard to see kids that I see as my own kids, who I teach life lessons to go before me,” Murray continued, his eyes welling up with tears.
Some remembered White as someone who helped others in the Mission.
“If you needed help carrying groceries, or if you needed to know anything about Mission Street, he was the one to go to,” said White’s brother.
Otis Herrera then started to remember his brother’s smile. Murray pulled him closer.
“I want his brother to remember that smile. He could warm up a room with that smile,” Murray said.
Jose Valle, a bartender at Cava 22, a bar at Bartlett and 22nd Streets that has posted a picture of the late White wearing a crown on its front door, also mentioned White’s smile.
“He was always around here. He would grab a drink and come say ‘Hi’,” Valle said. “He was always joking around with people, always telling stories.”
Valle declined to share some of those stories, describing them as too inappropriate.
Others at the memorial also remembered him as the life of the party.
“It didn’t matter if you were black, white, whatever,” said one attendant. “By the end of the party, Maurice would have everyone talking.”
Friends of White’s are currently crowdsourcing for funding for White’s funeral on www.youcaring.com. With eight days left, the organizers listed as “Johanna and Friends” have raised $3,583. Their target goal is $5,000.
Many of those who attended the memorial on Bartlett last night plan to attend all of Jacobo’s court proceedings.
“I’m going to it all,” said Elizabeth Herrera while friends nodded in agreement around her.
Jacobo will be back in court Nov. 4th in Department 9 at 9:00 a.m.
With additional reporting by Rigoberto Hernandez.