[UPDATED with Event Coverage:] Crime Victims and Survivors Honored at DA's Rally

Categories: Crime-iny
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UPDATE, APRIL 15, 8:45 A.M.: The colors teal, yellow and black were worn by both the young and old in honor of the 2011 National Crime Victims' Rights Week theme, "reshaping the future, and honoring the past" at Thursday morning's third annual Orange County Victims' Rights March and Rally.

Hundreds of advocates for victims' rights, families of victims, crime survivors, law enforcement officials, and community members flooded the Orange County District Attorney's office in Santa Ana for the reception at 9:30 a.m.

The DA's Chief of Staff Susan Schroeder introduced guest speaker Andre Birotte Jr., the U.S. Attorney for the Central District, who commemorated the winners of this year's essay and art scholarship.

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Photos by Monica Luhar/OC Weekly
Carnations with tags bearing the names of crime victims are laid near a wreath.
Among the 400 people who attended the event, Steve Herr held up a sign with an image of his son, Samuel Herr, who served in the army with his comrades and was a student at Orange Coast College. Samuel Herr was murdered and dismembered in May 2010, and 27-year-old community theater actor Daniel Wozniak has been charged with killing Herr and a friend.

"Samuel had a good sense of humor just like his dad," said the late student's mother. "He was a good kid. He always tried to get his shirt off to help other people, and I think that was part of the problem. Sometimes people took advantage of him because of that. He would always try and protect his fellow comrades in the army. Everybody always felt safe because they knew he had their backs."

After the reception, advocates for victims' rights marched toward the Old Orange County Courthouse  carrying with them white carnations with cards attached stating the names of loved ones lost to crimes. These were later placed near a wreath.

The ceremony began with a presentation of the colors by the Santa Ana Police Department Honor Guard. Robert Gustafson, Orange's police chief and the president of the Orange County Chiefs and Sheriff's Association, led the Pledge of Allegiance. The national anthem was beautifully sung by Charlyn Bender, deputy district attorney, later transitioning into a moment of silence led by Erin Runnion, who founded the Joyful Child Foundation in honor of her young daughter Samantha Runnion, who was murdered.

Orange County Supervisor Shawn Nelson, whose law banning sex offenders at regional parks and other recreational areas where children gather was recently adopted, gave a presentation. District Attorney Tony Rackauckas, who co-authored that ordinance with Nelson, reminded everyone of the significance of the march and rally, thanking several agencies, law enforcement officials and organizations that help victims of crime.

"Remembering those we've lost, honoring those who've survived and celebrating the tenacity and the strength of the people who carry on the fight for justice" were the point of the event, Rackauckas told the crowd. Two crime victims then spoke.

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