Carrying signs and bundled in down coats, about three dozen people marched through Cherry Hill on Monday evening, demanding an end to the violence that has left four people shot — two fatally — in less than a week.
They gathered at the corner where a former high school basketball star was gunned down while in a friend's car and marched a few blocks to the spot where a football coach was shot while his wife was strapping their toddler into a car seat.
"They were breathing air. They had a life. And now they're gone," said Janell Thomas, an organizer with the nonprofit violence-prevention group Safe Streets. "We have to stop letting guns take over our communities."
David Moore, 50, joined the march to honor his nephew, 21-year-old Rhidel Price, a former Northwestern High basketball standout who was fatally shot Thursday afternoon. Police have announced no motive or suspects in any of the four homicides.
"These are kids I raised. I saw them grow up," said Moore.
Safe Streets workers organized the rally to unite the community against violence, program director Cathy McClain said.
"We don't want this to be routine," she said. Organizers said the spate of fatal shootings is extremely rare for Cherry Hill.
The group huddled by a stop sign strung with balloons and teddy bears in honor of Harry Hicks, the 29-year-old football coach fatally shot in front of his toddler Saturday afternoon.
"I've never seen anything like this in my 44 years in Cherry Hill," said Delaino Johnson, a Safe Streets outreach workers who lives less than a block away.
"This is my street. This is my house. These are my kids," he said, his voice cracking. He pleaded with neighbors to join the rally.
One by one, front doors banged open, and people went out to join the group. Among them were neighbors Toyia Johnson and Angela Delaney.
"Our community is a beautiful place," said Delaney, gesturing to the neatly tended lawns and tall trees. "We want to take our community back."
Johnson said she prayed that her three teenage children would be safe while she was at work.
"This mess needs to stop," she said. "Everybody needs to get together and get the [perpetrators of violence] out."