EAST ORANGE, NJ  – Over 100 people gathered Friday May 8, 2015 to honor the memory of 27-year-old Latrena May, who was murdered on May 1, 2015, following a domestic dispute with her child’s father.

The Candlelight Vigil, which was coordinated by the City of East Orange, Purple R.E.I.G.N., and East Orange Citizens United for a Change, also raised awareness of the alarming rate of domestic violence homicides, particularly in diverse, communities of color, such as East Orange, where 90% of the population is African American.

May, a seven-year teacher at Pride Academy Charter School, was allegedly gunned down after she flagged a patrol officer in the middle of an argument she was having with Andre Higgs in front of her home on Tremont Avenue, according to the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office. Officials say that Higgs was then shot by the responding officer and later charged with murder and weapons offenses in May’s death.

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In a recent New Jersey study, rates of intimate partner homicide varied by race and ethnicity, but black women between the ages of 25 and 44 were 3.5 times more likely to be murdered than women of other races within the same age range. Additionally, African American (black) women are at a far greater risk of experiencing the most egregious forms of domestic violence when compared to other groups.

“As a community, we have the unique ability to be a catalyst for systemic change,” said Mayor Taylor. “We are committed to working with community advocacy groups such as Purple R.E.I.G.N. to implement a continuum of services that engage all of our shared resources – public safety, education and social services – to break this vicious cycle of violence.” “The city and its residents must stand in solidarity to prevent future domestic violence fatalities.”

Since 2008, Purple R.E.I.G.N. has provided multi-disciplinary empowerment services and preventative strategies to over 1,000 victims of domestic violence and sexual assault.

“Domestic Violence is a crime that betrays love, ends trust, and destroys lives. Seventy-five percent of domestic violence homicides occur after a victim has left the relationship or at the point of separation. The heinous nature of Ms. May’s tragic murder is an accurate depiction of the reality of far too many victims,” says Community Activist Asia D. Smith, founder of the East Orange-based Purple REIGN Social Services and national domestic violence advocate. “As we struggle to come to terms with this insidious epidemic, it is imperative that we continue to implement culturally-specific safety strategies and raise awareness of the various forms of abuse, and the fatal consequences of domestic violence.”

The East Orange Police Department has a team of specially-trained volunteer advocates available to meet confidentially with victims of domestic violence at police headquarters 24-hours a day, 7-days a week. The Domestic Violence Response Team (DVRT) is comprised of civilian members of the community who work in conjunction with the police to provide support, information, and referrals to victims of domestic violence at police headquarters. DVRT volunteers, whose identities are kept anonymous, are trained to empower victims to make decisions about their own lives. For more information on DVRT, please call Nicole Walters at 973-266-1114.