The community along Sunshine Street, San Juan, has banded together to assist the family of murder victim Ashanti Riley.
On Wednesday night, several members of the community came together to cook food for the teenager’s wake at the family home, while funds are being raised to offset the funeral costs.
“Friday night (tonight) we doing something again, Sunshine itself, people coming out and we say we would organise the drivers and them. We say who could put 50, who could 100, who could 200 just put something, even self if we scrape a 2,500 just give it to her,” said Juran Allen, one of Riley’s neighbours.
Allen’s brother runs a funeral home which has also offered services to the family at a reduced cost.
“That wasn’t our fault. What we can do is make a better out of it and still show them we appreciate them in our community,” he said.
Allen said the community was saddened by what had happened but felt the blame cast upon the community was unfair. He explained that while some residents were aware that the PH who picked her up had a criminal past, the community had given him a second chance as he initially had not shown any indication of returning to his past behaviour.
“We see the media was bashing Sunshine but Sunshine have a lot of love, Sunshine people is loving people. We don’t have the set of crime what they does normally have, we don’t have that,” Allen said.
“At the end of the day, whatever he had done in the past, we really thought that was that and the guy had changed because we look at the timing. He was away like four-five years and it came back around and he wasn’t really, his name wasn’t calling in anything like that.”
However, Allen explained that within the last two months whispers of predatory behaviour from the suspect started resurfacing from female passengers. He said the community was almost exclusively serviced by PH cars, especially following the downturn in the economy as the COVID-19 pandemic had left many without work.
“It have three registered H car in the area, is three old men. Two of them don’t work taxi on Sunshine stand, only one do. You understand, so it don’t really have an association, we formed our own small (taxi) association,” he said.
The community plans to come together again today, as they once again plan to cook and raise funds for the Riley family. Ashanti’s fiuneral is set for Monday.