Hundreds of mourners gathered in Family Bible Fellowship Church in Newark Monday to remember Johntue Caldwell, the victim of a July 15 homicide in Hayward and best friend of Oscar Grant III.
Caldwell, 25, was found dead from gunshot wounds in a parked car at West Tennyson Road and Calaroga Avenue. Police said they did not believe the shooting was random but have not yet determined a motive.
Hayward police Lt. Roger Keener said the department is still in the process of interviewing witnesses but said he is optimistic that the case will be solved.
Caldwell's family and friends remembered Grant as well as Caldwell during the services. The two were friends growing up in Hayward and were employed together at Farmer Joe's Market in Oakland.
Beverly Dupree, Caldwell's aunt, recalled a story from his childhood, when a fearless Caldwell tried again and again to climb to the roof of his house.
Grant's uncle, Cephus Johnson, said he never realized just how similar Grant and Caldwell were until he heard that story. He said Grant had done the same thing as a child. "They were one," Johnson said.
Caldwell and Grant were both detained on the Fruitvale BART platform in the early morning of Jan 1, 2009, which sparked violent protests in Oakland after video emerged showing a BART police officer shooting Grant while he was restrained face-down on the platform.
Officer Johannes Mehserle was convicted of involuntary manslaughter for Grant's death and was recently released from prison. Caldwell was involved in a lawsuit against the BART police regarding Grant's death and other allegations of police misconduct that night.
Grant's mother, Wanda Johnson, spoke at the services and thanked attorneys for Grant and Caldwell for their pursuit of justice in that case. "What good could come out of this?" she said of the death of her son's best friend. "I'm just thankful for the path that he and Oscar shared together," she said.
Johnson was recently awarded a $1.3 million settlement from BART for the death of her son.
Johnson, who has been one of the most outspoken critics of the police shooting of Grant, offered the same level of support to Caldwell's family. "Whatever I can do to bring justice for Oscar is the same effort I will put into Johntue," he said.
Minister Jay Webster Jr. lamented the persistent violence among black youth and said it was a symptom of ongoing racial discrimination. He challenged the young men in the audience to overcome their often-painful upbringing. "Just as our community has risen up from so much pain, you young people hold the key," he said.
"Don't allow the men that killed him to kill your potential," Webster said.
Teyani Cisneros, Caldwell's cousin, had difficulty reciting a poem honoring Caldwell, breaking down into tears in the middle of the reading. "We ain't never lost nobody in our family to a murder. This is crazy," she said.
Another family member who spoke said she had one question for God: "How can we prevent incidents like this with gun violence?" She said that Caldwell was a man who believed in forgiveness. "He wanted us to learn how to forgive," she said.
Pastor Clara Yow closed the service with a eulogy that was at times fiery and angry, and at other times mournful. She, too, called on the young men in the room to overcome violence in their communities.
"God wants us to love one another. If we love one another, we won't hurt one another," she said. "Love is the key. It's stronger than death."