The wife of a 59-year-old San Francisco man who died today following a brutal attack in Oakland last week remembered her husband as “a normal person like you and me who was always a happy person with a sense of humor.”
Speaking to about 250 people at a rally at the Oakland Asian Cultural Center only about two hours after Tian Sheng Yu died, Zhi Rui Wang said her husband “liked to help people” and asked that he be given “a blessing as a man who took care of his family and all of his friends.”
Speaking in Mandarin in remarks that were translated by Oakland Chinese Chamber Foundation President Carl Chan, Wang said, “I wish this is the last press conference for something like this and no one will have to deal with a tragedy like this.”
Yu, who was attacked in the 1800 block of Telegraph Avenue in downtown Oakland at about 3 p.m. Friday, died at Highland Hospital in Oakland at 11:27 a.m. today, according to Oakland police spokesman Jeff Thomason.
Yu and his son, 27-year-old Jin Cheng Yu, were shopping and walking near the Fox Theater when they were attacked by two men for no apparent reason, Thomason said. Yu was hit in the face and fell to the sidewalk, injuring his head.
The two suspects, Lavonte Drummer and Dominic Davis, both 18-year-old Oakland men, were arrested Monday night.
Drummer, who lives about four blocks away from the scene of the incident, turned himself in to Oakland’s homicide unit at about 5 p.m. and Davis, who was on his bicycle, was arrested near the intersection of Sacramento and Carleton streets in Berkeley at about 7:50 p.m.
Drummer and Davis initially were being held on suspicion of assault with a deadly and assault causing serious injury in connection with the attack but in the wake of Yu’s death they may now face murder charges.
Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O’Malley, who spoke at the rally, which was held in the heart of Oakland’s Chinatown District, said in an interview afterward that authorities are looking into whether the assault could have been a hate crime and if Yu and his son “were singled out because they were Asian.”
O’Malley said, “There’s no sense of a motive at this time and we have to opine based on the suspects’ actions.”
She said, “We don’t know if the suspects were just angry men or they targeted someone.”
O’Malley said investigators hope to learn more about the incident when they get a chance to have an in-depth interview with Yu’s son, who was with his father at the hospital nearly around the clock after the incident.
Chief Deputy District Attorney Tom Rogers said charges against Drummer and Davis will be filed Thursday morning and they’ll be arraigned Thursday afternoon.
Rogers said a technical issue is that Davis was still a juvenile at the time of the incident, as he didn’t turn 18 until Saturday. He said his office must decide whether to charge Davis as an adult or as a juvenile.
Oakland police Lt. Brian Medeiros, who heads the department’s homicide unit, said Drummer and Davis were both arrested on robbery charges when they were juveniles.
Chan organized the rally before Yu died and the crowd groaned when he announced Yu’s death, saying, “This is a tragic and very sad day for our community.”
Chan said, “I was hoping to say that there was a miracle, but unfortunately that is not the case.”
He said when Yu’s son wanted to shop in Oakland on Friday, Yu asked if that might be dangerous but the son assured him that Oakland would be safe.
“I know the son is still blaming himself” for asking his father to come to Oakland to shop with him, Chan said.
He said Yu came to the U.S. in 1968 and worked as a contractor and handyman, fixing properties.
Chan said Yu believed in the American dream and wanted his son to become a doctor but he said now “the dream is shattered and cannot be accomplished while he is still alive.”
Chan said he is concerned that elderly people and minorities are sometimes targets for crime in Oakland. He added that he doesn’t necessarily think that the attack on Yu and his son, who also was injured, was necessarily a hate crime even though they are Asian and Drummer and Davis are black.
“We could look at it as a race issue,” Chan said, but added there are “misconceptions” and “to say that all African American men are criminals is not true.”
Oakland City Councilman Larry Reid, who is black, said, “Let not this incident divide the city. Let it bind the city closer together to make it stronger and safer.”
City Council members Jean Quan, Ignacio De La Fuente, Pat Kernighan, Nancy Nadel and Rebecca Kaplan also spoke at the rally, as did several members of the Chinese American community.
Chan said a fund will be set up soon to raise money for Yu’s family.