Lawrence Larry Olivas was walking home in east Bakersfield on the night of Feb. 7, 2017 when he was approached by a stranger.
When the stranger asked Olivas to hand over a basket of recyclables that he had with him, Olivas refused, after which the stranger pulled out a gun, shot him multiple times and took the recyclables. Olivas lived just long enough to tell first responders what had happened.
“I had just talked to my father earlier that day,” said Olivas’ daughter, Priscilla Navarro. “It was really devastating. It hurt.”
In the months and years that followed, Navarro said her family has assisted in the investigation into her father’s death. However, to this day, no one has been arrested or convicted in the killing.
That’s an experience that many families who have lost loved ones to violence have experienced in Kern County. In recognition of that, the Kern County District Attorney’s Office held its annual Crime Victims’ Rights March on April 9 at the county courthouse in downtown Bakersfield.
The event was held in recognition of National Crime Victims’ Rights Week, which was April 7-13.
Hundreds of people came carrying posters of dead loved ones, some gone 20 years and others just last year. Families as well as city and county officials marched to Mill Creek Park on 21st Street in honor of the victims.
“Today’s march is a reminder that victims of crime will not be forgotten, and it is an opportunity for those of us in public service to rededicate ourselves to pursuing justice in every case,” District Attorney Cynthia Zimmer said. “Survivors, we honor your strength and your courage, and we want you to know that you are not alone.”
Zimmer said that with half of all homicides going unsolved in Kern County, it’s crucial for members of the community to come forward with any information they have.
“Homicide cases do not solve themselves,” she said. “There’s no substitute for the involvement of our community.”
Navarro said she also hopes that the march, which she participated in for the first time this year, will help inspire someone to come forward with information about her father’s killer.
“Someone might have a change of heart,” she said. “Something is better than nothing.”
Another attendee hoping for resolution was Stephanie Fierros, who lost her 26-year-old son Michael Duarte last August when he was shot in front of her mother’s house in Delano by someone it is believed he knew. No arrests or convictions have been made in the case, Fierros said.
Duarte had two children, ages 10 and 8, and was attempting to get out of a gang after being in and out of prison much of his life, Fierros said.
“He was trying to better his life and provide a better life for his kids,” she said. “He had just gotten a job that allowed him to give his sons insurance. He was so excited about that.”
Fierros described her son as a lover of music (he got his first drum set at age 5) and someone who always sought to make everybody else happy.
When Aug. 19, 2018 came around, Fierros’ life came crashing down.
“It’s a nightmare,” she said. “It’s not something I would wish upon my worst enemy.”
Now, a few months away from the one-year anniversary of her son’s death, Fierros decided to come to march for the first time in the hopes that people will take notice.
“It’s a little surreal. I never thought I would have to be doing any of this,” she said. “I know there are people out there who know what happened. Maybe this might encourage someone to speak up. I’m hoping we can get some justice.”