The brother of a young artist shot dead three weeks ago while working on a mural in Oakland said at the work’s unveiling Wednesday that the violence that took Antonio Ramos’ life was antithetical to the community project’s goal of uplifting the neighborhood.
"How many walls do we have to paint for this to stop?" Leano Rice asked.
Backed by ArtEsteem, the third installation of the "Oakland Super Heroes Mural Project" features colorful Victorian homes and a tree-lined street. It was dedicated to Ramos who was killed while painting a portion of it on Sept. 29.
According to witnesses, the muralist got into a brief, but heated discussion with a man who was passing by that fateful Tuesday. The man, who remains at large, pulled out a gun and fired it at Ramos, witnesses said.
"We lose track of our humanity and we end up walking around, doing things like what happened to my brother," Rice said.
On Wednesday afternoon, attendees gathered on the 3500 block of West Street – where the 27-year-old Emeryville resident was gunned down – to view the third of six murals planned in West Oakland. The unveiling ceremony was emotional for many who recalled their slain colleague and friend.
"[We’re] always, always thinking about Antonio," lead artist Javier Rocabado said. "Every day when we come here, when we [paint] the mural, we think about Antonio because he was part of the crew."
The 4,000-square-foot mural enlivens what is otherwise a dark passage beneath an Interstate 580 overpass. It was designed in 2014 by West Oakland Middle School students who envisioned themselves as superheroes combatting their communities’ problems, according to the project’s website.
Organizers set up an Indiegogo fundraiser to collect $10,000 – the outstanding amount needed to complete the large mural. As of Wednesday, 196 backers had donated $11,383 to the cause.
"Despite the horrific loss of our gifted muralist, our team forged ahead and refused to allow Antonio Ramos’ work and life end in vain," they wrote. "The mural stands as a beacon of hope and perseverance in spite of the violence that continues to plague our communities."
The city’s Mayor Libby Schaaf told attendees Wednesday that they were standing in front of everything that is both right and wrong with Oakland, wrapped up in one powerful image.
Oakland police say the photo of a person of interest, shared with the public on Oct. 5 continues to be a key part of the investigation into Ramos’ death.
The photo, taken from a video surveillance camera, shows a slender African-American man wearing a blue Adidas sweatshirt with a white zipper and a black cap. He appears to be in his 20s and about 6 feet tall. Police have yet to disclose why they suspect the man.
"The case is not growing cold," Officer Johnna Watson said. "Investigators continue to work the leads and tips that come in, confident they are going to be able to solve this case and bring closure."
Nicole Ambrize, who knows one of the contributing artists and brought her son to the unveiling, said she believes in what the mural stands for.
"It just shows there is good and there are people who can rally around and see beauty in darkness," Ambrize said.