Slain Oakland school district carpenter remembered with vigil, peace garden

Friends, colleagues, and Rudsdale High School community members gathered Monday to remember a longtime Oakland Unified School District carpenter who died in a shooting last year at the school.   

The remembrance for David Sakurai, 64, started in the lunchroom at the school at 8251 Fontaine St. in Oakland.   

At least one shooter opened fire at the school Sept. 28, injuring six, including two critically. Sakurai died Nov. 17.   

"It was a horrible thing," Anne Okahara, Sakurai's domestic partner, said in an interview Monday.   

The remembrance was "really beautiful" and included a "strong sense of community," she said.   

Students and the community established a peace garden for Sakurai at Rudsdale, which is part of a larger campus called King Estates.   

The garden includes a pergola, benches, flowers, and rocks decorated with phrases that will be placed near one of the benches.   

Fremont High School students created the benches in the school's architecture academy and donated them, Rudsdale Principal Alessandra Cabrera said in an interview Tuesday.   

Cabrera said Sakurai always wanted to do a great job.   

"For me, he was always kind and friendly," she said. "He always valued his work."   

Okahara described him as "a kind and humble person. Not flashy or glitzy."   

He was also the prankster in the school district's Department of Buildings and Grounds, she said.  

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Sakurai was a general contractor for decades before joining the school district. Okahara and Sakurai met when he was remodeling her home, she said.   

"It's been very hard" since the shooting, Okahara said. She said she was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.   

The Oakland community has been supportive, moving her to tears with their love and kindness, she said.   

Okahara said she and Sakurai believed that incarceration for crime isn't helpful. She said there's no evidence that incarceration helps anyone.   

She and Sakurai believed in preventative measures to violence, including mental health services and restorative justice programs, Okahara said.   

"We don't believe a whole person's life should be defined by their worst mistake," she said.   

That idea is aligned with the mission and vision of Urban Peace Movement, a nonprofit that focuses on healing-centered youth organizing.     

Urban Peace Movement helped organize Monday's remembrance along with the school district.   

Sikander Iqbal, deputy director of Urban Peace Movement, agreed that punitive measures don't curb violence, citing New Zealand as a place that has an effective restorative youth justice system.   

"We all want accountability that works," Iqbal said.   

He cited poverty, lack of access to food and housing, and oppression as some of the roots of crime, though people don't always link them together.   

"This," Iqbal said, "is the society we live in."