Paris Powell, an Oakland man, was shot on the street on Wednesday, when he and his family were feeding the poor and homeless on the streets. He died from the wound late Wednesday, authorities said Thursday.
Fondly called "Brother John" by local residents, Powell, 29, had been serving meals for the homeless and downtrodden several times a week for over a year in East Oakland.
Powell was associated with an advocacy foundation for domestic violence victims. On Wednesday when Powell, his pregnant wife Lalita Powell, 35, and his stepdaughters Shayla, 3, and Cristina, 7, were serving a hot meal of fish, fries and a soda pop to William Holloway, a 61-year-old former homeless man, whom they had served for more than a year, a passing vehicle stopped near them. The slid open and a man inside fired four shots without any word before the vehicle sped off.
Powell was taken to the Highland Hospital and died later on Wednesday. He was shot on the head from the passing vehicle, the Oakland Police Department said.
Lalita later recalled that the shooting had made Powell's stepdaughters Shayla and Cristina scream in shock and fear.
She recalled that she said "Oh my God, help us" and began praying. She said she couldn't see the face of the shooter.
"Are you OK?" she had asked her husband. At that time, he was breathing heavily but gave no reply. She didn't know that he was fatally shot. But later when she saw his blood-drenched shirt, she realized his condition was worse than expected.
The police said Shayla was hurt in the arm and Lalita also grazed her arm. However, Cristina and the old man Holloway didn't suffer any injuries.
"It's sad. It's so sad when you have someone that is trying to make a difference and do the right thing," Powell's aunt said on Thursday morning. The children have not yet been informed about his death, the aunt said. Everyone in their family, which includes a 90-year-old grandmother, are grieved to hear about the tragedy. "All I can do is pray. We will pull together as a family." the aunt said.
The aunt also expressed her anger towards the killer(s), "I feel for them, whoever it is. They're troubled."
"My husband has no enemies, no criminal past, no drug involvement, no gang activity, nothing," Lalita said, Thursday, amid tears. "I don't know if it was random, I don't know if that's the new way they jump people into gangs or something. It's not right. It's not fair. It doesn't seem real."
Facing the future of raising her two daughters and the fatherless baby in her womb, Lalita doesn't know how to carry on without her husband.
Holloway, who used to be homeless and now have got a job as a security guard, said Thursday that he wished it had been him instead of Powell who was killed.
"He has a wife and family," Holloway said. "He was a good man, a very good man. I look at it this way. If I get killed, I'm more expendable than him. I value his life more than I do my own. I'd give my life to get his back."
Holloway also worries that no one will continue Powell's work, which means the homeless will now have to find food in garbage cans or beg for it. "I hope someone continues his work but I doubt it. It's too dangerous out here now," he said.
"It's very senseless," Oakland police spokesman Jason Scott said. "We need to come together as a community and show people that you can't do these types of things. Good is always going to overcome evil. We need more people to do things like he was doing, to show people that you can feed the homeless and take care of the needy."
So far, the killer is still at large the motive behind the shotting remains a mystery. Investigations are going on.