Man and woman who died in Lake Merritt identified

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A man and a woman were both pronounced dead Thursday morning after they were heard fighting by Lake Merritt and both were pulled out of the water shortly after.

Police have identified the victims as Michael Grace, 39, and Tayana Johnson, 24 both residents of Oakland. Police say the two were dating. Johnson’s death being investigated as a homicide while Grace's death is being investigated as accidental. Investigators believe that Grace and Johnson were involved in a physical altercation. Johnson exhibited signs of physical injuries.

Johnson's body was recovered just before 7 a.m. about 50 feet from the shore. Crews quickly covered her with a tarp. Oakland Battalion Chief Zoraida Diaz confirmed she was the woman rescue crews had been looking for since 4:30 a.m. 

Grace had been pulled out of the lake earlier, and was unresponsive when crews took him to the hospital, firefighters said. Diaz said crews had found him "thrashing" in the water before paramedics performed CPR on him. Just before 8 a.m., police declared him dead, too.

The deaths follow an active morning, where firefighters and rescue teams were called out to the lake about 4:30 a.m., following several 911 calls that a man and a woman had been in a verbal argument near Hanover and Lakeshore avenues. Diaz said two of the department's marine units and a rescue swimmer had deployed to search for the body and the San Francisco Fire Department as well as the Coast Guard also had been called to assist.

What led up to the fight and why the pair ended up in the lake wasn't immediately clear. But several neighbors heard the arguing and ended up calling 911.

One of those neighbors, who didn't want to be identified, said she heard the argument outside her window about 4 a.m.

"I heard them screaming," she said. "I couldn't make out the words, really." She said she heard the woman's voice saying, "help, help, help." 

When the witness went outside to get a closer look of what was happening, she said she saw "cops jumping in the water."