More than 100 people paid tribute Wednesday morning at a somber vigil for a muralist who was shot and killed while working on a community project designed to combat violence and lift spirits.
Family members of Antonio Ramos, 27, of Emeryville came to the spot where he was killed and hugged in a tight embrace, though they declined to speak publicly. Others came to say goodbye and place flowers and candles along the vibrant mural picturing colorful Victorian homes and a tree-lined street that sits directly under the Interstate 580 overpass, in a marginal part of town.
"It's not fair," family friend Kevin Boyd said simply, adding that Ramos was "a good kid," and "inspiring."
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The event for Ramos was sponsored by ArtEsteem and the Attitudinal Healing Connection, where Ramos worked since 2012. He had been painting a portion of what is called the "Oakland Super Heroes Mural Project" when he was gunned down about 10:30 a.m. Tuesday in the 3500 block of West Street. Police have not identified a motive or suspect. Project organizers seek to stop violence by inspiring them with art and education.
But according to witnesses, Ramos got into a brief, but soon-heated discussion with a man who was passing by. The man pulled out a gun and fired it once, hitting Ramos, witnesses said.
Javier Rocabado saw some of the aftermath. Rocabado was up on scaffolding painting when his friend and colleague Antonio Ramos was shot and killed by a man walking by.
"Antonio told the guy, 'What are you doing? Why are you doing that? And the guy turned around and shot him," Rocabado said. Rocabado said he called 911 while the shooter stayed calm and didn't even run. "He just walked away," Rocabado said. "With no remorse. No nothing. He just walked away."
Neighbor Yvette Buiges said the act was so "thoughtless and senseless." She added: "I can't imagine an argument important enough to take someone's life."
"This is devastating," said Dave Burke, a mural project art director. "We're doing these murals especially because there's violence and incidents here like this."
Mayor Libby Schaaf and City Councilman Dan Kalb also expressed disbelief at the tragedy.
The mural Ramos was working on is slated to cover 4,000 square feet of wall and is part of an ongoing project between artists and Oakland students. It was designed by students at West Oakland Middle School, according to a statement from the Attitudinal Healing Connection.
Ramos got involved in the effort from living in the neighborhood. He simply asked if he could help, according to project spokeswoman Erica Wheeler-Dubin. He stayed on, eventually as a paid artist to work on the West Street wall, where he was killed. He loved posting his art to his Facebook page, Wheeler-Dublin said, and listening to music while he worked. On Tuesday, she said he brought a speaker to play music as he worked.
Mural project leader David Burke said that the painting will continue. "His family has requested we continue this mural," Burke said. "We're going to honor that and dedicate the mural to Antonio and his life."