‘The children are watching’: Rochester shaken after murder of 12-year-old boy

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. – A memorial is set up on the sidewalk along Atkinson Street where Rochester’s youngest murder victim died this week.

Juan Lopez, 12, was gunned down around 7 p.m. while walking with a 16-year-old boy. That boy remains in the hospital with multiple injuries.

No arrests have been made, and Rochester Police have not said if they have any suspects, or disclosed a possible motive.

On Atkinson Street, photos of Juan, called “King Juano,” are hung on the fence just a few feet from where he was killed. There’s also a letter for his family. Candles – lit during Tuesday night’s vigil – still burn.

While News10NBC Chief Investigative Reporter Berkeley Brean was there, the head of the city’s Office of Neighborhood Safety arrived.

“For me, it’s always an overwhelming sense of sadness but it’s also a motivation for me because as you well know, my son had a memorial similar to this a little over a year ago,” Dr. Kiah Nyame said.

His son, Jaquan Hill, was shot and killed on Cameron Street in May 2021.

Dr. Nyame’s plan is to go door-to-door and ask people what it will take to make them feel safe.

“We want to try to offset some of the vicarious trauma that has already taken place,” he said.

“I’m not Superman, but there’s always something that somebody in the community can do,” he added.

Every time a person is killed, the social work team at the Rochester City School District mobilizes because they know some of their students are directly affected.

This time, the victim is a classmate. Juan was in the seventh grade at Franklin.

“When we talk about children and their desire to want to grow up and be older and just have less things to think about and enjoy their childhood and now they’re being concerned about, ‘Am I next? Is this something that can happen to me? If my classmate isn’t safe, am I safe?'” Tamara Sheppard, an RCSD social worker, said.

She says it’s the adults who need to change.

“We have to work on our impulsiveness. We have to work on setting examples for each other and also holding people accountable,” she said.

“It starts with us. Because the children are watching.”