The small altar of  four candles on Folsom and 25th for Amilcar López-Pérez, a 21-year-old from Guatemala who was shot and killed by police, has grown into a heart shaped altar with flowers, candles and yellow posters calling for “Justice for Amilcar.”

 López-Pérez died on February 27th at around 9:45 p.m. when two plainclothes police happened on an incident in progress.  Police said the young Guatemalan  was attempting to steal a bicycle. However, numerous neighbors and eyewitnesses have countered the police narrative saying that although López-Pérez was carrying a knife, he was in fact the victim of a crime in progress and that someone had stolen his cellphone.

 “Amilcar’s voice seems to be crying out ‘I’ve done nothing criminal’ said Paul Gawlowski, a pastor at St. Paul of the Shipwreck Church. The pastor conducted the service and stressed the importance of “working together for peace and justice.”

Pastor Paul Gawlowski getting ready to conduct the prayer service. Photo by Andrea Valencia

Pastor Paul Gawlowski getting ready to conduct the prayer service. Photo by Andrea Valencia

Gawlowski led the the memorial of some 20 people, praying for the victim, reviewing the case and  calling on police to consider new strategies for dealing with tense situations.

 “We have to work towards the common goal to change the training of the police,” said Julio Escobar, from the Restorative Justice Program with the Archdiocese of San Francisco.

 Bill Simpich, López-Pérez’s neighbor and a civil rights attorney, added: “We want community control of the police,” adding that police should “live in the Mission.”

 Neighbors have started collecting statements to hold an independent investigation.

 Florencia Rojo, another one of López-Pérez’s neighbors, recognized the need for systematic changes but also expressed the need to collectively help López-Pérez’s family back in Guatemala.

 Eduardo Román, López-Pérez’s friend and coworker, said that he has been in touch with López-Pérez’s family.

 “His father is devastated and his mom is in the hospital,” Román said.  “Amilcar was never involved in problems, he always had a way of helping his family, he was a very hard worker and he was my friend. Let there be justice,” said Román.

There will be a March on Saturday at 7 p.m. at 16th and Mission.