Supporters remain hopeful six months after boy’s disappearance
on February 11, 2010
It’s been six months since Hasanni Campbell disappeared from outside a Rockridge shoe store, but the supporters who gathered outside the downtown Oakland police station Wednesday night continue to hope for his safe return.
About a dozen community members attended the vigil along with a half-dozen reporters, a far cry from the 100-150 people that organizers expected. The supporters carried signs highlighting the $75,000 reward being offered. They carried candles, and many wore clothes bearing the child’s name and likeness.
“Our efforts will not stop. We are committed to finding Hasanni,” said Courtney Tascoe-Burris, who helped organize the vigil. “We believe somebody saw something. … We are imploring you to please come forward, please come tell the detectives at this station what you may know.”
Hasanni, a Fremont boy with cerebral palsy who would have turned six in September, disappeared from a car parked near Shuz of Rockridge at 6012 College Avenue around 4 p.m. August 10, 2009, according to his foster father, Louis Ross. But an extensive police search turned up no sign of the boy.
On Aug. 28, Oakland police arrested Ross and his fiancée Jennifer Campbell, the boy’s biological aunt, on suspicion of murder, but the District Attorney’s office declined to file charges.
This month news media have reported that Ross and Campbell have since moved out of their Fremont home and their whereabouts are unknown.
But despite the months of disappointment, supporters held fast to the idea that Hasanni is still alive at Wednesday’s vigil. “It’s only been six months. We don’t consider six months a long time. The case of Jaycee Dugard tells us that we should not give up our search. We should not give up our hope,” said Dr. Ramona Tascoe, the mother of Tascoe-Burris and ex-wife of attorney John Burris, who had at one point been acting as an advisor to the child’s foster parents. “Hasanni may very well still be alive so we are calling on the public to have a renewed strength, a renewed commitment.”
Among those gathered to support Hasanni was Tena Oakley, a Newark woman whose 32-year-old daughter disappeared three years ago. “Because my daughter is an adult and she’s in Michigan, there is no searching going on for her,” said Oakley. “I strongly believe that if you help people you’ll end up getting help too. … I’m hoping that if we find Hasanni maybe my daughter will show up, or we’ll be able to find — something.”
Toward the end of the rally Oakland Police Chief Anthony Batts came out to address the small crowd of supporters and news media. He said that the department is considering the case an active homicide investigation and he gets frequent updates on the case.
“Although we consider it that way and we still have to follow up those leads, we still ask that you look out for young Hasanni Campbell just in case that is not the case,” said Batts.
Batts said the police department is pursuing leads with the District Attorney’s office, but he would not say whether Campbell’s foster parents are the subject of that investigation.
“We wanted to show public support for the detectives, the Oakland Police Department’s effort, but then also to encourage them and challenge them to do more,” said organizer Tascoe-Burris. “If attention was going to be brought to this story, it was going to take a community effort, it was going to require a grassroots movement.”
When asked what more the police should be doing, Tascoe-Burris paused.
“Can I toss that one?” her mother chimed in. Tascoe claimed that several people told police they saw a boy matching Campbell’s description walking along College Avenue the day he disappeared, but that the police reports contradict these witnesses accounts. She said that the police have not answered why the case became a homicide investigation or why the foster parents were arrested and then released.
“When that story went out, there was nothing that doubled back and said, ‘Well we were wrong. We were premature,'” said Tascoe. “We were left to believe as the public that the story was true but we’re not going to do anything about it.”
“We need to have answers for why we’re not going to do anything about it if you think these people killed this child,” she said. “We frankly don’t buy the story that they killed him until and unless we see proof that there’s reason to believe that—and even then, as you know, innocent until proven guilty.”
At the end of the rally, the supporters began to sing, “We shall find Hasanni soon,” to the tune of “We Shall Overcome.”
“Oh, deep in our hearts, we do believe, that we shall find Hasanni soon,” they sang, their heads bowed, almost in prayer, as the TV news cameras pulled back to capture the tableau.
Oakland North’s complete coverage of the investigation into Hasanni Campbell’s disappearance, including an interactive timeline of events, can be found here.
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