RICHFIELD, Minn. (WCCO) — A Twin Cities family is fighting to keep memorials for their murdered son in the public eye until his killer is caught. The city of Richfield wants the souvenirs gone.
The mementos mark the spot where a gunman shot and killed Jonathan O’Shaughnessy last year.
For the last year and a half, flowers, stuffed animals and now holiday decorations have been set up as reminders of a 24-year-old’s life cut short. The memorial bench to Jonathan O’Shaughnessy can stay, but the city of Richfield wants the rest of it cleared.
A small Christmas tree and wreath are the latest additions to 64th Street and 4th Avenue that memorialize a young man who again won’t be here to celebrate.
“Holidays are really hard,” said Cynthia Kuntz, Jonathan O’Shaughnessy’s mom.
“It’s never easy, there’s a hole at the table,” his dad, Brian O’Shaughnessy, said.
But in a way, they said, Christmas feels even crueler this year.
“Somebody actually sat in their office and wrote that letter,” Brian said.
Richfield’s Recreation Services Department says the items are not permitted uses of the city’s public rights-of-way. The statement reads:
“Following the tragic death of Jonathan O’Shaughnessy on July 2, 2017, the city facilitated the installation of a memorial bench and plaque at the intersection of 64th Street and 4th Avenue in Richfield, in partnership with the O’Shaughnessy family. Over the course of the last eighteen months, the city’s elected officials and staff have supported the family’s numerous outreach and charitable efforts to draw attention to the unsolved murder of Jonathan.
“Since the installation of the bench, residents have deposited numerous memorial items and decorations around the bench. However, these items are not permitted uses of the city’s public rights-of-way. Due to residents’ complaints about the items left at the site and the need for the city to ensure that the public right-of-way is safe and clear for maintenance and access purposes, we have asked the O’Shaughnessy family to remove the items by January 7, 2019.
“As a city, we understand the need to balance family and community grief with the overall city’s need for safe and appropriate uses of public rights-of-way and aesthetically appealing public spaces. We believe we can identify solutions that can do both.”
The city is in the beginning phases of crafting a Roadside Memorial Policy to provide better guidance to residents regarding the proper use of city rights-of-way. In the future, residents will have the opportunity to engage and provide feedback on any draft policy, prior to enactment.
“Do you need to take that away over Christmas?” Brian O’Shaughnessy questioned.
January will mark 18 months since Jonathan was gunned down in a drive-by shooting walking home from a summer street dance.
“Van pulls up, says, ‘We’re going to kill you.’ They shot him,” Brian said.
“There’s so many people who knew Jonathan and in this community who don’t understand why this crime has not been solved,” Cynthia said.
Police say there’s nothing new to report and that the investigation remains active.
“There’s so many people who come here and tell me what they left,” Cynthia said.
Jonathan’s parents are now asking people to flood city leaders with emails, pushing them to allow the mementos to remain until the gunman is found.
“Still trying to find answers, hopefully they’ll come,” Brian said.
The family has until Jan. 7 to remove the items.