STOCKTON, CA - The city of Stockton has matched its homicide record set in 1992 with a total of 55 unjustified homicides already this year.
The Stockton Police Department says increased gang activity, a police force reduced by about 100 officers, and crimes of passion contributed to the high homicide rate.
"We absolutely wanted to do everything to avoid it," said department spokesman Officer Pete Smith . "We tried to avoid the first homicide to the 55th homicide. The statistics downplay the fact that each person killed was someone's son or daughter, brother, neighbor, friend."
The distinction of being the most deadly single year in Stockton's history, at this moment, equals the carnage of 1992. News10 tracked down survivors of those killed by violence in 1992. Several declined to speak on-camera saying the hurt and trauma of losing a close friend or family member to murder still feels like it happened yesterday.
"It still hurts even now," said Kelleen Yocum, friend of homicide victim Kelli Freed.
Freed was a 33-year-old-secretary at Sierra Middle School, who acted as an unofficial counselor and mentor to students. In September 1992, Freed was shot to death when she and a friend tried to warn an on-coming car that his headlights were off. The teenaged passenger opened fire onto the car Freed was riding in.
"I just think of how she wasn't able to reach her full potential. She had so much to give to the world. And I'm sure so many people killed could've added so much," said Yocum.
More than 500 people attended Freed's funeral. Yocum said people who kill don't understand how many lives will be altered by taking away one person. She says even 19 years later, the pain of losing her friend still exists.
"What they do impacts so many people," said Yocum. "And it lasts a lifetime. It never goes away."