by Alex Darocy

On June 12, family members held a memorial for Derrick Gaines, a 15-year-old who was shot and killed by an officer with the South San Francisco Police Department on the evening of June 5. Police claim that Gaines, who was walking with a friend near an Arco gas station, was engaging in “suspicious behavior.”

They tried to stop him, and they say he ran and produced a gun. It was at that time a still unnamed officer shot and killed Gaines.

Community members want justice for Derrick Gaines, and for the truth to come out. Dr. Amos C. Brown, president of the San Francisco chapter of the NAACP, spoke at the memorial and declared: “We are going to fight this situation. We are not going to rest until a thorough investigation is done and until these officers are brought to justice.”

The June 12 memorial was held at the location of Gaines’ death, the Arco gas station on the corner of Westborough and Gellert Boulevard in South San Francisco and was well attended by family and friends. It had been one week since his death, and Gaines’ parents were still visibly in a state of shock. Condolences came from others who have lost loved ones to police violence, including Cephus “Uncle Bobby” Johnson, the uncle of Oscar Grant, a young Black man who was murdered by BART police officer Johannes Mehserle in Oakland in 2009.

Many at the memorial were studying the layout of the Arco gas station and wondering out loud how the two security cameras that were pointed in the direction of the shooting did not reveal more that had happened that fatal evening.

With so little information released by police concerning the details of the alleged “suspicious behavior” that prompted the officer to shoot Gaines, community members have described it as a type of pedestrian check that is characteristic of racial profiling. When interviewed by a reporter with the Bay Area News Group, the owner of the Arco station said he doesn’t “feel good” about what happened, and that in the 24 years the business has been in existence it has never been robbed.

The mood at the memorial was somber at first, but as the afternoon progressed more and more people Gaines’ age showed up, and the memorial transitioned into a celebration of his life. Drivers were encouraged to “Honk for Derrick,” community members brought flowers, and friends arranged teddy bears and hung balloons along the gas station fence on which loved ones have written affectionate messages.

Speakers at the memorial included Dr. Amos C. Brown, president of the San Francisco chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), Archbishop Franzo King of the Saint John Coltrane African Orthodox Church, Willie Cotton of the Socialist Worker’s Party and Rachel Guido Red, Gaines’ mother.

The Derrick Gaines Memorial Fund has been established by family members to help pay for his burial. Donations can be made at any Wells Fargo bank branch by using account number 1636477653. Vigils for Gaines are planned to continue at the Arco station at 2300 Westborough Blvd in South San Francisco. Memorial services will be held Duggan’s Serra Family Mortuary in Daly City on a date yet to be determined.

Alex Darocy, a photographer and artist from Santa Cruz with a BA in History of Art and Visual Culture from UC Santa Cruz, can be reached at and through his blog, at

Justice for Derrick Gaines

My candle burns at both its ends;

It will not last the night;

But ah, my foes, and oh, my friends

It gives a lovely light!

– Edna St. Vincent Millay

Though it lasts not through the night

Ten thousand others it will light

To brighten the day and strengthen the fight

For justice for Derrick Gaines

– Archbishop Franzo King

The words by Edna St. Vincent Millay were written beneath this photo of Derrick and his mother. When Archbishop King saw them, he says the additional four lines came to him like a divine inspiration.



  1. Such a nice depiction of a kid who HAD A GUN!!!! if you pull out a gun in my direction expect to get shot am I wrong for saying that ? kill or be killed. Racial profiling ? HE HAD A GUN~!!!!!!

  2. 1) He had a gun, you never mentioned the gun. Why? "Police recovered Derrick's gun, but Brosnan would not specify its type or say whether it was loaded."

    2) He carried a gun regularly. "Derrick carried a gun with him for protection "on the streets" but was too "street smart" to pull it on a police officer, said a friend, 16-year-old Lorne Burnham."

    This web page really needs to stop posting articles like this. This web page consistently ignores street crime, one the leading killers of black and brown youth. 4 people were shot today, June 16th, in Oakland and you write nothing. It doesn't matter right?

  3. I think there should be no mention if it was loaded or not because how the hell does a police office know if it is loaded . If someone aimed a gun at me that gives me full right to pull the trigger unless I am superman and I have special powers to know it is a toy gun or it is not loaded then ok dont shoot them . John brings up a good point about the street crime that happens everyday in Oakland . I can tell you living down the street from where it all happened this is not a unsafe neighborhood so for someone to be packing heat for protection hmmm very suspicious . If he was packing heat did he have a concealed carry permit and was his gun registered or was it a illegal gun ? Why do we not hear about that ? If we want to hear about racial profiling Ill bet someone would write about if this was a white kid if the gun was registered or not and if he had a ccw permit

  4. How do we know the officer is telling the truth about this child having a gun? Nothing in this article, or anything else I have read about this case, said the police have produced any evidence of Derrick Gaines possessing a gun. The police report only notes "suspicious behavior." I don't believe this kid had a gun. The police lie all the time. This appears to be another outrageous murder like Trayvon Martin's — another in an unending series of racially motivated murders of young black boys. And this is the 'enlightened,' progressive Left Coast — not even Florida! Intolerable!

  5. The picture of Derrick and his biological mother is at least 5 years old. He did not look like the innocent little ten year old this biased newspaper posted. He dressed and looked like a thug like a lot like the teenagers that went to his memorial. I wish this "newspaper" would depict the truth as vehemently as they try to malign it. Furthermore, I like the way Amos Brown stated "we are not going to rest until a thorough investigation is done and these officers are brought to justice." Why not just go ahead and say they are guilty, because that is what he believes. I am not going to go on about Derrick's death being a tragedy. It is. What is also tragic is his mother and father failed him as parents a long time ago. This could have been avoided if they had put in as much time and effort in caring and rearing him as they are now doing for the press and attorneys.

  6. To Cathy please read this article… from the sfgate paper . Lorne Burnham a 16 year old friend came out and admitted he had a gun . Cathy I want two things to be put in the paper which I dont think ever will. Was the gun registered to him ? Did he have a permit to carry in public ? this is media hype to promote him as a innocent kid . I have lots of registered guns and no I dont carry them in public . Why ? BECAUSE I DONT HAVE A PERMIT FOR THAT . The law is the law . And if I did had a permit for that i would pull it out when the cops are stopping them without expecting them pulling the trigger on me for fear of them getting shot by me . we need to wake up and admit to the evidence that has been slyly down played .

  7. No matter what, how does a kid go from eating at McD's to getting shot and killed 30 yards away? This is the issue at hand and this is what needs to be investigated. We want a fair & thorough investigation. This could have been anybody's son. Blacks, Latinos & Samoans know all too well what RACIAL PROFILING is. Kids getting labelled as gang bangers and thugs just bcuz they dress a certain way or are a certain race. I've been attending the gatherings for Derrick and his friends are there to support and stand up for justice. They're just kids. You can tell alot about a person by who he keeps company with. And these are not thugs or gang bangers. My hope and prayer is that through all this that these kids will continue to stand for justice and to make difference in their community. I see future lawyers and activists and preachers and yes, even police officers in this crowd. They are going to make a difference for good.

  8. No. He had a gun. He couldn't be "anybody's son". They're not "just kids". It isn't "racial profiling", he had a gun. Get it? That's the irony here. This is justice. Gang bangers only harrass and intimidate people. They only prey on others when they have weapons or numbers. They are cowards. This is what justice looks like. Indignation is the wrong emotion here. Shame is the emotion you're looking for.

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