Justice Afoa, 17, was killed Wednesday just after school let out at Newark Memorial High. He was killed at Cedar Boulevard near Birch Street. And now that spot has become a gathering place to honor the young man. His friends and family believe his murder might have been retaliation for an incident that happened several months ago, but police said they are not so sure.
A memorial of candles, pictures and a Christmas tree were placed there to remember and honor Afoa. As she stands before a growing memorial to her son, the mother of Afoa is struggling to make sense of what happened on the sidewalk Wednesday afternoon.
When asked if there was anything she could think of that would provoke someone to hurt her son, Suvania Afoa replied, "No, not at all. I really don't understand why this happened to my son."
At 3:40 Wednesday, Afoa was stabbed and lay dying on the sidewalk.
"Through the investigation process, we've learned that there was multiple people that saw what happened and now what we're doing is we need their help," said Newark police Commander Bob Douglas.
So far, few witnesses have come forward and suspect descriptions are very vague. Investigators do believe that Afoa was targeted. So does his family.
"He wasn't the type to go looking for trouble, you know. He was quiet," said Afoa's brother, Tima.
The family and friends who gathered at the site where he died say Afoa may have been attacked because he broke up a fight at a party three months ago. But police don't know yet if Afoa was involved in that incident and whether it had anything to do with his murder.
"I have actually read that police report, and the victim is not listed in that incident that you're referring to," said Douglas.
Thursday morning, several police cars showed up at Newark Memorial High School, but so far there have been no arrests.
"I just hope people come forward. I know for a fact that people are going to come forward, but they need to come up soon," Andrew Manu, Victim's Friend
"If anyone knows something, they need to come out for the sake of the community, for the sake of our children," said Suvania.
Afoa was one of three brothers and three sisters in his family. Afoa played football for Newark Memorial last year, but was recently attending a continuation high school this year so that he could get his grades up and graduate with his friends in the spring at Newark Memorial.
Afoa's death is Newark's fifth homicide of the year, in a community of about 44,000 people.
Anyone with information about the stabbing is asked to call Detective Sgt. Mike Carroll at (510) 578-4247 or the anonymous witness hotline at (510) 578-4000, ext. 500.