The death of a youth pastor in Pomona last year has those he left behind looking to make peace for that city.
More than two dozen homicides took place in Pomona in 2013. One of them happened Nov. 11 and took the life of 33-year-old Daniel Diaz.
Diaz was a youth paster at the New Beginnings Christian Ministry in Baldwin Park. He was taking one of the teenage boys from the church home to Pomona when shots rang out. Diaz was found hunched over the steering wheel, and a passenger escaped harm.
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"I heard gunshots and I'm like, 'Oh great, more shootings in Pomona'," said Alberta Mendibles, who lives near the shooting scene at Mayfair and Park avenues. "Every weekend there's a shooting over here in Pomona."
Those words echoed for Diaz's parents, who for months after his death faced the anguish of losing their son. Then, in March, David and Donna Diaz began reaching out to community leaders in Pomona.
"We felt that God was giving us a mission," Pastor David Diaz says. "We felt that we needed to do something."
That something has become the "Peace for Pomona Walk" taking place at the Civic Center Plaza of Pomona Saturday at 9 a.m. More than two dozen churches, a dozen nonprofit groups, community leaders and victims of crime are expected to gather.
"Everybody's coming to a place now saying 'enough' we're gonna do this and we're gonna do this together," Pastor Diaz says.
His son's killer remains a mystery to Pomona detectives and yet remains in the family's thoughts nightly.
"He can't get away from God," Diaz says. "Wherever he goes and whoever it is."
Donna Diaz says the family prays for her son's killer every day, "And one day he will surface and we pray that he can do something with his life."
Ethel Gardner will be at the walk, too. Her son died in a car crash in 1992 and her pain led to opening the Kennedy Austin Foundation in Pomona and starting the "Million Mothers March" every May that brings awareness to parents left behind after their children have been killed.
"We have to make our communities aware," she says, "You see a news flash and everybody is really heart broken and then everybody goes back to their lives. But what happened to those people who are devastated?"
Donna Diaz says her son Daniel gave his life helping people, and set an example for how others should live theirs.
"Although this city has brought us great sorrow and his absence in our lives in constant pain," she says, "We are committed to bringing resources to this city to help families who have been affected and/or victimized by many types of crime."
Daniel had just turned 33 when he was killed. His father tells a story of his son asking for his father's blessing just one month before he died. And with his death, Pastor Diaz says his son laid a seed to a harvest in Pomona.
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"I know that his life continues to speak," he says. "The impact he left, I think, will go on for years."
Clutching a tissue, Donna admits the pain of their loss has not lessened.
"He left a tremendous hole in our hearts and it's still very, very painful," she says, "Right now in our lives, in our family, there's a lot of hurt. So all we can do is love and hope for change."
For more information about the Peace for Pomona Walk, call 626-331-3322 or 626-331-3332; or visit www.NBCMinistry.com.
Check-in for the event is at 8am and the walk will begin at 9am from the Civic Center Plaza of Pomona, 505 South Garey Avenue in the City of Pomona.