Mock Wake Raises Awareness Of Violence In Haverhill

HAVERHILL, Mass. (WBZ NewsRadio) — An unusual public event was held in a Haverhill funeral home Saturday, set up in an effort to keep kids off the streets.

Guests at Comeau Funeral Home were lining the room with flowers and family photos Saturday morning. Jesus Ruiz said he had been planning the public event for six months.

"So we're going to leave one of the youth in the casket, like it's a memorial for him," Ruiz explained. "As people are walking in, he's going to have his friends around his casket, watching him as if he's lost his life."

Except, the the person in the casket is still very much alive. Ruiz threw the mock wake as a reality check about gang violence in his community.

"I've been seeing that the numbers are increasing tremendously," he said, "with the pandemic it's increased 50 percent for violence, and 50 percent for overdose deaths in the Essex county area."

Ruiz, who is a former gang member, is now the founder and president of Leaving the Streets Ministries. He said the organization has helped over 200 kids this year alone.

"People only get together when a tragedy has happened," he said. "I'm trying to prevent this from happening."

WBZ NewsRadio's Matt Shearer reports:

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(Photo: Getty Images)

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