Hundreds pay respects to slain Oakland muralist

OAKLAND (BCN) - A steady stream of grieving people on Wednesday visited the mural in West Oakland where artist Antonio Ramos was fatally shot just 24 hours earlier, with many leaving candles, flowers and messages to honor his memory.

According to Oakland police, Ramos, 27, who lived in Emeryville, was shot at the mural site under the Interstate Highway 580 overpass on West Street between 35th and 36th streets at about 10:30 a.m. Tuesday and was pronounced dead at a hospital a short time later.

Police said a male suspect fled on foot after the shooting. The suspect is still at large and police haven't released a description of him.

Ramos was a muralist with Art Esteem, the literacy and art arm of Attitudinal Healing Connection, a West Oakland group that seeks to stop violence by inspiring people with art and education.

Guillermo Ortiz, a healer or "curandero" who's on the board of Attitudinal Healing Connection, led a short memorial ceremony during a Wednesday morning vigil for Ramos in which he had mourners take turns facing east, west, north and south "to bring out the energy of each direction."

Ortiz, who burned incense during the ceremony, told the crowd, "This tragic place will be blessed and something good will come out of all this."

"If he wasn't painting he was skateboarding or helping his mom and dad," said family friend Bridget Chavis. "He was a sweetheart. And, oh God, I'm going to miss him."

Attitudinal Healing Connection's executive director Amana Harris said, "This was a horrific tragedy that we never want to experience again."

Harris drew applause when she said, "This project will move forward and we will dedicate this wall to Antonio."

"His life was sacrificed for this art and he was trying to bring love and art into our community," said Harris. 

KTVU spoke with the artist's older sister, Velena Ramos.
She did not want to go on camera. But she said her family was overjoyed by the outpouring of community support and that it's been wonderful for the family.

And she had these words for her brother's killer: "I hope who did this isn't sleeping at night until justice is served."

Ramos was one of several artists who were working on Tuesday morning on the Oakland Super Heroes Mural Project, which is organized by Art Esteem.

David Burke, the mural project's art director, said he met Ramos three years ago when he walked by as the group was painting another mural nearby on San Pablo Avenue and asked if he could help.

Burke said, "He said, 'I love what you are doing and I want to be a part of it' and he showed up every day after that and lifted everyone up."

Burke said of Ramos, "He had an infectious happiness and he embodied the spirit of doing painting to bring peace and love and passivity to our community and break the cycle of violence."

Burke said he was at the mural scene when the shooting occurred but he didn't see what happened because his back was to the street and he was focused on painting.

"It happened so fast and there was no time to react," Burke said. "I heard gunshots, turned around and that was it."

Many people cried during the ceremony for Ramos today and Ramos' sister, who already was on crutches, was so distraught that an ambulance was called to take her to the hospital as a precautionary measure.

Oakland City Council president Lynette Gibson McElhaney and council members Dan Kalb and Annie Campbell Washington were among those who attended the ceremony.

ArtEsteem is raising funds to complete the remaining murals through an online Indiegogo campaign.

Meanwhile, a crowdfunding site has been set up for Ramos' family.