SRJC football player dies in drive-by shooting in Sacramento
If this were a normal year, Rashaun Harris would have been in Santa Rosa on May 29, finishing up finals at SRJC and reflecting upon the end of spring football practice. Instead, with the coronavirus pandemic shuttering classrooms and putting an end to spring sports activities, he and his teammates went their various ways.
Harris had joined his family in Sacramento, and on May 29 they all went out to dinner. Harris again told them of his dreams.
“He said, ‘Once I make it, I’m gonna get my mom out of the ’hood, my siblings,’?” recounted his older sister, Dajonnae Harris. “All he cared about was playing ball. He loved his family and his nieces and nephews. He had never been in police trouble.”
Rashaun will never get a chance to make good on his promise. As he sat in his car across the street from the family home in Sacramento’s Meadowview neighborhood at about 10 that night, someone in a passing car shot at Harris and killed him. Dajonnae is certain it was a case of mistaken identity.
It was a tragedy wholly its own, as distinct and personal as any senseless murder. But it was also a reminder of the unique place a junior college, and a sports program, can play in the life of a young man. And it was reminder of the complicated ways this pandemic has changed the world.
“Those kids are like your kids,” SRJC football coach Lenny Wagner said. “When they go away for breaks, I think you worry about them. I wouldn’t say ‘scared,’ but you do fear their life will be complicated in some way when they go home.”
Harris wasn’t the first Bear Cub to run into trouble outside the cocoon of campus. Last fall semester, one of his fellow cornerbacks, Eric Wilson, was shot during a trip home to Baltimore during a holiday break. Wilson’s father, who directed him to Santa Rosa immediately after high school to get his son away from a high-risk neighborhood, hadn’t wanted him to come back home for visits.
Wilson survived, but the shooting was one factor in his decision not to return to SRJC.
Harris had grown up in Vallejo, but most of his family had moved to Sacramento a few years ago. He joined them there recently and got a job for Amazon. After dinner on May 29, he had remained in his car for a few minutes of alone time, as was his habit.
“I was the first one on the scene, because I ran outside when I heard the shots,” Dajonnae Harris said.
Sacramento Police Department officers responded to the gunfire, and paramedics followed shortly thereafter, according to a police press release. They pronounced Rashaun Harris dead at the scene.
Two weeks earlier, he and his twin sister, Esme, had celebrated their 23rd birthdays together. Wagner described Harris as “very thankful and appreciative of things.” Wagner had expected him to start at cornerback in 2020, and to earn an offer to a four-year university.
“This is a hard pill to swallow,” Dajonnae Harris said. “Out of all 10 of us, he was the one gonna make it.”
A shooting in Meadowview? It makes Diamond Weaver sad to hear, but it doesn’t surprise him.
“I actually grew up in that neighborhood,” Weaver said. “It’s known as a Blood neighborhood. But also, one of the biggest Crip gangs is not too far away. So you’re dealing with that dynamic.”
Weaver, now 33, is a shining example of the junior college model. He came to Santa Rosa JC, as he puts it, “a little rough around the edges.” Wagner describes it a bit differently.
“When we got him, he was a trainwreck,” Wagner said. “We almost kicked him off the team about 10 times.”
Weaver grew up in Sacramento, but moved to Mobile, Alabama, to live with a relative when he was 16. It was pretty much a survival move.
The drugs and gang activity were closing in on him, and he and his mother feared he would be overtaken. Weaver fell in love with football in Mobile, but he was rebellious, and his grades were in tatters.
“My mom didn’t graduate high school. My father wasn’t present,” he said. “There wasn’t an importance on education. She stressed that I have to get my diploma, but the path to get there and the advice and tools to make that happen wasn’t a place she could speak from.”
A four-year university was out of the question, so Weaver looked at community colleges. An uncle suggested California, where there are no JC entrance requirements and Weaver might be able to re-establish residency. He visited Santa Rosa on a whim, and fell in love with the program, the school and the city.
He has never fully left. Though Weaver has moved around for a football coaching career, he maintains strong ties to Santa Rosa. He’s currently sheltering here with his girlfriend.