Jacksonville community gathers to honor the lives lost to violent crime with ‘Tossing of the Roses’

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — The Saint Johns River was scattered with bright yellow roses on Monday night, each one honoring the life and loved ones lost to violent crime in Jacksonville.

The event serves as the ninth annual “Tossing of the Roses” ceremony by the Justice Coalition, as part of National Crime Victims’ Rights Week, with this solemn gesture kicking off the commemoration.

Each yellow rose represents a name and the memory of a life lost to violent crime. Kevin Martinez is one of those names, and family members say he was shot and killed in April of 2021 in Jacksonville, just days after his 24th birthday. Martinez’s younger sister, Valeria Herrera, says he’s remembered as someone who was always there for those in need.

“Even when I needed it, I would go to him for guidance,” Herrera recalled with a sad smile. “Because he was so wise with his words and he was simply such an amazing human being.”

Dozens of other names were also honored at Monday’s event. Furthermore, some of those names are still awaiting justice, like that of 19-year-old Larry Tould, who was shot and killed in January of 2021.

Action News Jax had the chance to speak with Tould’s mother on Monday, Sheria Thomas, who previously spoke to Action News Jax years ago following her son’s death.

“Two people were arrested, but only charged with possession of a firearm and leaving the scene,” Thomas explained to Action News Jax in frustration on Monday. “So I’m still seeking justice on his behalf to get a murder case going.”

Monday night’s solemn memorial is just another reminder of the pain that those left behind are dealing with.

“Not only are we hurting, not just the person, but their whole family … their children,” Herrera exclaimed. “You’re leaving people without parents.”

Herrera also added one final, resounding message: it’s time to stop the violence here in Jacksonville.

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