A man who urged an end to violence in Oakland after gunfire killed his son and grandson as they slept three years ago became a victim himself this week as he drove near a street memorial for his slain family.
Melvin Johnson, 39, was shot and killed Tuesday on the east side of the San Francisco Bay Area city, not far from the shrine for his 16-month-old grandson and 20-year-old son, who were fatally shot in August 2013, the East Bay Times reported Thursday.
Police have made no arrests and released no motive for Johnson’s killing. They have not said if the shooting was random or if Johnson was targeted. He died at a hospital.
“In three years and four months, three generations of one family has been lost to gun violence in the streets of Oakland,” community activist Sherri-Lyn Miller, a friend of Johnson’s, told the Associated Press. “Melvin Johnson was a giant teddy bear, and the loss has not only devastated the Johnson family, but all that knew him.”
Johnson had moved his son, Andrew “Drew” Thomas, and grandson, Drew Leon Deon Jackson, to the Central California city of Fresno to get them away from Oakland’s street violence, but they were slain while in town for a birthday party.
A shooter fired into a relative’s home in the middle of the night, killing the sleeping pair. The slayings are still unsolved.
Johnson’s mother, Carolyn Smith, spoke of her late son Wednesday as a good person who was committed to his family after a series of tragedies.
Another of his sons, 8-year-old Jahmel Johnson, died last month after a battle with lymphoma.
"[Melvin] helped everybody, he loved everybody,” Smith told the newspaper. “He didn’t mess with nobody; he was like a big teddy bear. I’m not saying that because I was his mother, but because I know.”
Smith said his business, Drewski Designs, which made T-shirts and clothing for picnics, anniversaries, funerals and special events, helped people in the community.
“A lot of people called him, wanting him to make them this and that,” Smith said. “He was changing his life, helping others.”
Authorities are offering up to $10,000 for tips on who killed Johnson. A reward of up to $30,000 for information leading to an arrest in his son’s and grandson’s killings is still being offered.
In past years, Oakland has seen triple-digit annual homicide rates and been on the FBI’s list of the 10 most dangerous cities in the country. Poverty is rampant in some areas, with gangs and drugs linked to as much as 90% of the killings.
This year, the mayor said Oakland has seen a double-digit drop in overall shootings. Violent crime also has dipped. But the blue-collar city of about 410,000 has yet to see the economic boom underway in neighboring San Francisco.