OAKLAND, Calif. - Actress and musical star Zendaya and her mother, a former Oakland school teacher, are raising money to support the wife and daughters of a popular elementary school coach who was killed almost two weeks ago.
On Tuesday, the Alameda County Coroner still would not publicly identify the 30-year-old man who was shot to death July 25 in the 1100 block of 65th Avenue in Oakland, saying police asked them not to.
But the mother of children and friends identified the victim as Lnefarius McGinnis – a father of two known as “Coach Phee.” He worked at Fruitvale Elemtary School and Sankofa Academy in the afterschool Heroes programs. And he also worked at elementary schools in San Leandro and the West Oakland YMCA.
Oakland police tweeted a picture of the homicide scene that morning but have not revealed any motive or suspect information. They did not immediately respond for comment Tuesday morning regarding the case. McGinnis’ funeral was held on Tuesday at CP Bannon Mortuary.
"I'm not holding up good at all... especially with the circumstances. My son passed away," said McGinnnis' mother, Andrea Evin, who spoke to us outside his funneral on Tuesday.
McGinnis’ death is baffling to those who knew him.
“He was a challenging student,” said Claire Stoermer, who used to be McGinnis’ teacher at the now-closed John Swett Elementary School. “But he literally turned himself around and became a great mentor to kids.”
McGinnis went from being Stoermer's student to his colleague. Her daughter, Zendaya, knew him, too. Years ago, when Zendaya was a toddler, Stoermer would take her students on camping trips and “Coach Phee” would often go along.
She and Zendaya are now donating and collecting money for his family, which includes Vanessa Gonzalez, who works as a security guard in San Francisco, and daughters Zuri, 2, and Saniaa, 9, all of whom live in Oakland.
Gonzalez said she knows barely anything about why McGinnis would have been shot “multiple times.” She also isn’t sure why he was in that neighborhood because her family lives by Children’s Hospital near the Temescal District. She said McGinnis once dated a woman near where he was killed, but she wasn’t sure if he had been visiting her before he was shot.
She described him as a “great, hands-on Dad. He never missed a step.” She said that he would happily watch the girls when she was at work, and often meet her at the BART station with them to pick her up from work. He volunteered in the community and was amazing with children. Their youngest daughter keeps asking for her dad, but doesn’t really understand, Gonzalez said. “The oldest one is taking it really hard,” she added.
Gonzalez said she’s thankful that Zendaya and her mother have taken to raising funds for her family and that people care.
But for now, she and other friends wish they knew who would do such a thing.
Lamont Prince Jr., who has known McGinnis since the third grade, called his friend a “good soul. He was a P.E. teacher in the public schools. I still have a lot of questions.”
If you’re interested in donating to the family, click here.