HANFORD — National Crime Victims’ Rights Week may just be a week set aside by the government, but Kings County District Attorney Keith Fagundes said in Kings County, ensuring victims’ rights is done every day.
“It’s not just one entity or one department, but it’s every department — every police department, every county agency, every county service provider and many volunteer groups, churches and the like,” Fagundes said.
Thursday, the DA’s Office held its annual Crime Victim’s Rights Memorial Ceremony in conjunction with National Crime Victims’ Rights Week, commemorated April 7-13.
The event is meant to bring awareness to resources available to victims and to support victims as a community.
The ceremony, celebrated in Kings County since 1996, initially started as a private event for victims, but has turned into a large affair with hundreds of participants. It is open to anyone wishing to pay respects or offer support to victims in the community.
Previous ceremonies have focused on victims of homicide and their families. It has since expanded to include victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, kidnapping and elder abuse.
The theme for this year’s National Crime Victims’ Rights Week was “Honoring Our Past. Creating Hope for the Future.”
The ceremony included speakers from the family of Edwin Tates, a 25-year-old who was serving in the U.S. Navy and was stationed at Naval Air Station Lemoore.
Tates was riding his motorcycle home from Fresno on Feb. 17, 2018, when a drunk driver crashed into him from behind on state Route 198, just minutes from the base. Tates was thrown off his bike, struck by two more vehicles and died.
It was the driver’s fifth driving under the influence charge.
Tates left behind his wife, Samara Tates, and four children.
Samara Tates got up to speak with her support team behind her, including family members, Deputy District Attorney Jason Rifkind, Victim Witness Advocate Liliana Diaz and California Highway Patrol Officer N. Howard.
Samara Tates began to speak but was overtaken by emotion and instead, her brother-in-law took over to talk about the incident and how it affected their entire family. He thanked the support team and implored everyone in the room to never drink and drive.
Fagundes ended the ceremony by issuing a call to action to speak out not just against drunk drivers, but also against anyone who violates others and the rights of victims.
After the ceremony, attendees took time to admire the Kings County tradition of quilts that commemorate victims who have died, quilted by Juanita Coelho.
The ceremony featured songs sung by Destiny Carre and Madison Petersen. Joe Neves, chairman of the Kings County Board of Supervisors, also presented a proclamation to employees with the Victim Witness Assistance Program on behalf of the county.
Fagundes said victims are at the forefront of public safety in Kings County and these employees work tirelessly for victims’ rights.
Kings Coalition for Wellness and Awareness, Kings County District Attorney Victim Witness Assistance Program, NAS Lemoore Fleet and Family Support Center, Kings Partnership for Prevention, Kings County Human Services Agency, Kings County Probation Department, Episcopal Church of the Saviour, Champions Recovery, First Baptist Hanford and many others helped make the event possible.