Family still seeks justice for Rashad Al-Hakim Jr. after Fresno State student released on bail

Video by Blake Wolf/The Collegian

By Jiselle Cardenas, News Editor

As protesters gathered around, Ragina Bell stood in the center, hugging her son, Rodney. Tears rolled down their cheeks as Rodney clutched a photo of his older brother, Rashad Al-Hakim Jr., who was hit and killed by a car last year.

About 40 protesters made up of family, students and supporters gathered on Jan. 23 at the Fresno County Superior Courthouse to honor the life of Al-Hakim Jr. and to protest the ongoing legal proceedings of his case.

“Rashad didn’t only belong to his family, but Rashad was a baby of the community.” said Jerome Kitchen, Al-Hakim Jr.’s cousin and a member of the Fresno NAACP. “We’re not going to let his name and his life be buried in the injustice that we see going on every day on the news.”

The 15-year-old Hoover High School student was hit on Oct. 4, 2022, by Fresno State graduate student Lisa Ellen Spoors and later died on Oct. 10, 2022, due to the severity of his injuries.

Al-Hakim Jr. was crossing the street outside of the Hoover campus when he was hit.

Spoors was originally charged with one count of murder, driving under the influence of a drug and failure to perform a duty following a collision causing a death. It took two months after Al-Hakim Jr.’s death for charges to be filed in December.

The murder charge was dropped. As it stands, Spoors is charged with one count of driving under the influence of a drug causing great bodily injury.

The case has not yet gone to trial.

Spoors, who goes by they/them pronouns, has been charged with a DUI before, and drugs were in their system during the incident, according to the Fresno County District Attorney’s Office.

“Results from the Spoors toxicology report at the time of the incident indicate that [they] had a combination of illicit and prescription substances in [their] system,” the office said in a Facebook post.

Kitchen led the protest at the Fresno County Superior Court and said the legal system oppresses people of color who are the victims, and that Black families receive no justice despite losing young lives, mentioning Trayvon Martin and Breonna Taylor.

Kitchen said Ragina Bell, Al-Hakim Jr.’s mother, and Rashad Al-Hakim Sr., his father, waited too long to get justice and that the Fresno courts are favoring Spoors because they are a white person.

“This situation is that the person that hit and killed Rashad was a white woman. I know [they] identify as they and them, but [they] are a white woman… [They were] able to benefit under white privilege,” Kitchen told The Collegian. “They arrested [them], charged [them] and gave [them] a plea deal all within the same week. It took 16 days for Ragina and Rashad [Sr.] to even know the name of the person who hit and killed their child.”

One grievance the family of Al-Hakim Jr. had with the case was that bail for Spoors was originally set at $1.5 million on Dec. 27, 2022. However, bail was lowered to $150,000 due to the defense attorney’s objections.

The defendant’s attorney pleaded the bail was incongruent with the offense because it was based on a murder charge. The attorney argued that there was not sufficient evidence to prove Spoors was under the influence and could not avoid hitting the victim, according to The Fresno Bee. The judge agreed.

Spoors posted bail and was released. The next court hearing for their case is on March 2, according to

“It just doesn’t make sense to me,” Bell said. “The whole process from the arrest to allowing the extra time to the bailout.”

Prior to the incident, defendant Spoors had been convicted for driving under the influence in 2008. At that hearing, Spoors was advised driving under the influence could result in fatal consequences dangerous to human life and potentially be charged for murder.

Another grievance behind the family’s reasoning for protesting was going 16 days before knowing the name of the perpetrator.

On Oct. 20, 2022, Al-Hakim Jr.’s family attended a Fresno City Council meeting hoping to expose the name of the individual who hit him.

“When accidents happen, you know the name of the person that you’re involved in an accident with. You know who they’re insured by that day, not 16 days later,” Kitchen added in his interview.

The final grievance supporters of Al-Hakim Jr. had were concerns surrounding Spoors pleading not guilty.

“She’s pleading not guilty. So, I mean that right there just bothers me just because [they] know what [they] did,” Bell said. “I understand that to you it probably was an accident, but you still have to take accountability for your wrongdoings.”

Protesters gathered in a circle, held hands and prayed before commencing the protest.

“We’re going to bring Rashad to life today. We’re going to remind people that for 15 years Rashad belonged to somebody,” Kitchen began. “Rashad was somebody’s baby. Rashad was somebody’s brother. Rashad was somebody’s nephew. Rashad belonged to this community for 15 years.”

At the protest were Al-Hakim Jr.’s three siblings, father, mother, grandmother, cousins and other community members. Students and friends, as well as local organization Advance Peace Fresno, attended to offer support for the family.

Attendees were given the floor to voice their concerns, to share their memories of Al-Hakim Jr. or to display their support.

Protesters brought posters of Rashad Al-Hakim Jr., the 15-year-old Hoover High School student who was hit and killed by car on October 2022, with his family and as a baby. (Blake Wolf/The Collegian)

“Everyone can see that justice is not being served, so what we need to do is be here for this family,” said Shawn Robinson, who is a part of Advance Peace Fresno. “We need to seek justice… This family will never have closure.”

The organization has supported the family since Al-Hakim Jr.’s death and is continuing to support the family with resources. Advance Peace Fresno has connected the family with Victims of Violent Crimes and is attempting to connect the family with therapy options for the future.

Demarco Johnson, a 15-year-old student from Edison High School, spoke his condolences during the protest and emphasized the importance of supporting African-American families who lost a loved one but never received justice. Although he was not close to the family, Johnson told The Collegian he sees himself when looking at Al-Hakim Jr., being a 15-year-old Black kid himself, and it was the reason he joined the protest.

“Somebody got their life taken at such a young age, [and it] does not sit right with me,” Johnson said. “That could be me, I’m 15 years old. That’s how I see it.”

The scene was filled with people choking back tears and holding posters as reminders of what they were rallying for. Onlookers who were passing by watched or shared their condolences as well.

Kitchen announced that the family would be attending the next Fresno City Council meeting on Feb. 9 to keep drawing attention to their case regarding Spoors and encouraged the crowd to go.

The protest closed in prayer and attendees were thanked for their support. Bell has a GoFundMe set up for donations and support for the family.

“I’m never going to be quiet,” Bell said. “As long as I’m here, everybody’s going to know who Rashad