By Yasmin Golan

Last week, the body of a 23-year-old woman was found badly beaten to death in a park in my neighborhood. I co-operate a farm stand a few blocks away, and I pass the park at least a few times a week.

I ran into the Neighborhood Watch two days after her death and asked the group what they planned to do to mark the place where she died. Nothing, they said. One man told me he thought it had nothing to do with him. The park wasn’t really in the neighborhood. The neighborhood foot patrol, which meets every week to patrol the streets for “crime,” which exchanges hundreds of emails every week about car dents and iPhone muggings and fruit swaps and lost dogs, avoided my questions, avoided my gaze, and turned back to their conversation about nothing.

The woman who was murdered was named Kimberly Robertson, an African-American woman with a daughter who will turn three in May. It is believed she was the sole parent, which, if true, would make her daughter parentless. I put up a sign in the park, heavily taped so it would not easily be torn down. It read, “WE ACKNOWLEDGE A KILLED WOMAN WAS FOUND HERE, AND VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN IS EVERYBODY’S PROBLEM. SIGNED, THE WOMEN.”

Don’t you know that only one other person in the neighborhood commented on the murder in the discussion group, in a neighborhood of 20,000 people? She was walking by the park, she wrote, and ran into a grief-stricken man, Kimberly Robertson’s father, who came from Texas to identify his daughter’s body. He asked her, and anyone passing by, if they knew the spot where his daughter was found. Only then did it sink in: this woman who was murdered, the 26th homicide victim of Oakland in 2014, was a real person, and there was nothing to mark the place, no acknowledgment for the family to see. The woman felt guilt, even moreso afterward, for not getting his name, or offering him directions, or words of consolation or a cup of tea, but she went home instead.

Yesterday I passed the park. The sign I made, which stayed up for a week, had been removed. Right where it had been, a group of city workers were beautifying the corner where my sign was, carefully cutting back lilies and sweeping up trash. The sign was graffiti to them, something to be taken down.

Midway down the park, someone had placed a handful of flowers, bought at the florist across the street, now bruised and broken and dead, and next to them was a very sad note, written in desperate pencil, held down by a rock, to prevent it from being carried away by the wind, saying, “This is Kimberly’s Robertson’s father, and if you know anything, please call.”

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19 Responses

  1. Lorri A

    Yasmin, thank you for memorializing Kimberly Robertson with your article. May her memory be for a blessing.

    Reply
  2. Oakie

    Yasman,

    I certainly agree with you that violence against women is all of our’s problem. And your touching piece can only make the remembrance of this victim just a bit more known. Thank you for that.

    However, I’d like to bring up another woman who was cruelly shot dead in our city recently: Judy Salamon. I don’t do this to reduce in any way the importance of remembering Ms. Robertson. But I think there are some aspects of the violent murder of Ms. Salamon that offer useful insights into what the circumstances of her death tell us about what is wrong with out city.

    After all, we are the Robbery Capitol of the United States, most of which are armed robberies, and we are the 4th ranked city for murder. We have had 8,769 incidents of guns fired in the last two years, which represent a gun fired on average every two hours. Although we “only” have had a bit over 200 murders in the last two years, including Ms. Robertson and Ms. Salamon, we’d have had a whole bunch more murders if the people firing those 8,769 shots were more competent at aiming their weapon. Including women.

    I could point out some details of Ms. Salamon’s life (from the Oakland Tribune):

    “She was a well like resident of Maxwell Park, where she engaged in pet sitting. Judy Salamon was blocks from her East Oakland home when she pulled her Subaru Outback up to a scene that must have infuriated her: two men committing a street crime.

    [Maxwell Park] witnesses weren’t coming forward in the brazen, daytime crime.

    Salamon was born after World War II to Holocaust survivors and spent her early years in Canada before moving to Maxwell Park 20 years ago, according to her friend Agnes Meinhard. An accomplished pianist and dancer, she was well-educated and fluent in five languages.”

    Apparently Judy Salamon was recording video on her phone of 2 criminals in the act. They demanded her phone, throwing a garbage can at her car. They took the phone then shot and killed her. One of the perps, Mario Floyd HAD BEEN CONVICTED 8 DAYS PRIOR FOR ARMS POSSESSION and had walked away with Probation and was free on the streets.

    I was so outraged by this that I tweeted about it and specifically Mario Floyd and asked how he could have been free on the street 8 days after conviction for illegal weapons possession. I received a single tweeted response (and, notably not from Jean Quan, OPD or the Alameda County DA, who I aimed the tweet at):

    “she was snitch fuck that hoe #FreeMario” Jiz Khalifa® @mikeyfsofukkyou

    So I guess what I am saying is that it’s perfectly fine to remind us all that it is our problem, but please do not forget that our real outrage ought to be toward those who actually commit the crime. They and their friends are calling their victims hoes and snitches. Your readers here are not.

    Reply
  3. Kathy Ferreira

    Yasmin, thank you for acknowledging the tragic death of Kimberly Robertson. I share your outrage about Kimberly’s murder and I hope that now that OPD has arrested and charged her suspected murderer, it may bring some peace to her friends and family.

    As your neighbor, I also share your disgust with the attitude of some members of the “foot patrol” as well as the content of 90% of our neighborhood’s email discussions.

    Just last week, another neighbor and I were remarking about how upsetting it was that after Kimberly’s murder, dozens of neighbors spent their energies exchanging heated emails about the most humane way to kill rats, resulting in two people cursing at each other and getting banned by the moderator.

    While some social scientists might describe this disturbing tendency towards triviality as “bike shedding,” my neighbor and I still yearn for a healthier, more constructive forum for our neighborhood. I appreciate platforms like Oakland Local and the role Oakland Local plays in giving voice to the concerns you and I share.

    However, as a neighbor interested in building bridges, I’d also like to clarify some of the points you put forth in this piece.

    I was one of the dozen neighbors who saw Kimberly’s body in the park that day—and I am the neighbor you wrote about in this piece—it was me who had the chance meeting with Kimberly’s father, aunt, and cousin outside of the Lucky supermarket that night.

    I’m a little surprised by your interpretation of my message to the group and wonder if you have me mistaken for someone else on the neighborhood email list?

    If you search my name in the yahoo group I think you’ll find that my contribution to past email discussions, especially in the last year, has echoed the same themes and sentiments you share in this Op-Ed.

    https://groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/ClevelandHeightsNeighbors/search/messages?query=kathyferreira%40yahoo.com

    (Note: some of the past message threads were deleted by the moderator because a neighbor divulging personal information about me when I called out the list’s tendency towards racial profiling but the bulk of my discussion contributions should still be archived).

    I’m also surprised by your interpretation of my intentions, because in my message, I specifically championed the sign you made and posted at the park. And I echoed your message that “violence against women is everyone’s problem” in my email.

    Moreover, I was prompted to share the story about meeting Kimberly’s relatives with the neighborhood email group because of another neighbor’s false report about Kimberly stating that “no on knows what happened to her.” It was important to clarify how that fatalistic statement was not entirely true. I communicated that witnesses saw Kimberly get into a man’s car, and that the man could’ve been someone she knew and trusted. Stating this was an important reminder to us all that most violence against women is committed by someone the victim knows.

    Please do not misjudge my character or intentions. To be clear, as I was leaving Lucky with groceries after 10 p.m. that night, Kimberly’s relatives were speaking with the front-door security guard to see if he knew how to get to the park. I offered my condolences and we exchanged names. I suggested they follow me in my car so I could take them to the park personally and they wouldn’t lose their way.

    We arrived at the park near the cluster of flowers and small RIP sign. They asked me where she was found and I shared where I last saw Kimberly’s body under the police tarp. There were tears and hugs all around.

    They were in a mind frame to find answers. Kimberly’s cousin wanted to find the nightclub where Kimberly was last seen. I tried to think of as many local bars and clubs as I could and I gave her general directions.

    At this point, Kimberly’s father started to take some distance and walk off, so I felt it would be more respectful for me to leave them alone in the park so they could share a private moment of grief as a family.

    You mention the remorse and grief that I expressed in my group message after parting ways with Kimberly’s family. This is true. But I’m afraid your conclusions about my grief are inaccurate and unfair.

    As stated above, I had asked for their names, provided directions, and cried with them about their tragic loss. I apologized to them for Oakland failing Kimberly in so many ways since her recent move here.

    The regret I felt, and mentioned in my neighborhood message, was partly due to the fact that I started to cry first, when gesturing to the spot where I last saw Kimberly, and they moved to hug me immediately. I was struck by their kindness and I felt ashamed at myself for not being stronger in their presence—since I recognized and commented to them that they were the ones truly suffering not me.

    And in the crying and the utter shock of the chance meeting, I had forgotten their names and wasn’t thinking clearly enough to give them my number. I was so stunned parting ways with them that night, I have no memory of getting home and forgot my groceries in the trunk of my car until the next day.

    Sadly, Kimberly is not the first murdered dead body I’ve encountered in my nearly 20 years of living in Oakland. But her relatives were the first out-of-state relatives I encountered by chance in a grocery store parking lot. So I hope you’ll understand my grasping for a clear-head in that moment and failing.

    That was the regret and the lack of presence of mind I was referring to in my message to the neighborhood. I hope you’ll find that it differs greatly in the characterization you gave it in your description above.

    If you visit the memorial Facebook page you’ll also find the messages of grief and condolences I left before meeting Kimberly’s family, as well as messages I left after our chance meeting to reconnect them with local services. (https://www.facebook.com/groups/281821011978869/)

    Later that week, after my head cleared a bit, I exchanged emails and phone calls with our neighbor Andrew Park, Executive Director of local nonprofit youth group Trybe. I got Mr. Robertson’s phone number from the note he left behind at the park that night and passed it on to Mr. Park, who in turn helped introduce Mr. Robertson to the OPD Investigator on the case.

    BTW, it was one of the young Trybe students who started that flower memorial for Kimberly on the sidewalk near where her body was found the very next day after the tragedy.

    That night, back at the grocery store, Kimberly’s father shared his struggle navigating cross-state custody process involved in taking Kimberly’s daughter back to Texas. So in addition to my communication with Mr. Park in the days that followed that night, I also reached out to my personal friends in County Social Services but none of them had knowledge of the cross-state custody process nor could they refer me any contacts I could pass on to Mr. Robertson.

    Then, when friends on the Facebook memorial page expressed frustration that Kimberly’s murder didn’t garner more news coverage, I shared their frustration and provided them with contact information for who they might be able to contact to learn more about the murder investigation, including Oakland Local’s new Police Beat team.

    So….why am I leaving this absurdly long comment and detailing these efforts for you, Yasmin, as well as the broader Oakland Local readership?

    Three reasons.

    First, because despite my best efforts, I agree with you in that I wish I could’ve done more to recognize and respond to this tragedy and other tragedies like it.

    Second, because as neighbors, I’d like to ask that we not assume the worst about each other.

    Instead I’d like us to acknowledge each other with an open mind towards good and come together as a community. I know this is easier said than done, especially in emotionally charged situations like this.

    Last but not least, I want you to know that you are not alone in your outrage and grief. I appreciate your voice and your efforts in our neighborhood. But please trust that I am a member of the same chorus. I hope we can work together towards a greater understanding of each others’ humanity for a better Oakland.

    Thank you,
    Kathy

    Reply
  4. OaklandNative

    Oakie

    You and I have different memories about the handling of Ms. Salamon’s murder.

    She was killed about the same time as the 8-year old girl. The controversy was that Ms. Salamon’s murder seemed to be taken more seriously than the girl’s. The media told her story and details immediately. We knew she was loved and appreciated. In fact, a couple of councilmembers (Shaaf and Gallo?) were going to give a press conference on how Oakland’s murder had gotten out of hand after Salaman’s murder. They even planned to have it at the site of Salaman’s murder. This caused a controversy. Why wasn’t the press conference for the 8-year old girl?

    Getting back to Robertson’s murder. Because I happened to pass the covered body, I knew about the murder. The details slowly trickled out. A neighbor gave me more details than I got from the media. There was no press conference. Yet, I know a lot more about Salamon than Robertson. I “heard” she had a young daughter. Ms. Golan’s essay is the first mention I’ve heard in the media about her being loved and missed.

    Is it “coincidence” that Salamon is white, but the other two are African American?

    Reply
  5. Kathy Ferreira

    Hi again Yasmin, I went back and revisited the email message I posted to our neighborhood group that you referenced in your article. I’ve pasted its contents below to reaffirm how much I share your concerns about Kimberly’s murder and about violence against women as a whole. I hope one day soon we can meet in person and work together. Thank you, Kathy
    – – – – – – –

    kathyferreira
    Apr 11 9:44 AM
    View Source

    Thanks for sharing a pic of that sign. I had not noticed it before.

    To clarify the small sidewalk memorial I was referring to earlier this week is further down the 1900 block of 3rd Avenue. Near the park entrance closest to the elder care home on the corner of Wayne Place and 3rd. It’s a small cluster of flowers in vases on the sidewalk.

    Another point of clarification, I saw an earlier post that said no one knows what happened to Kimberly. There are some details that have been shared publicly I can pass along. Kimberly was out at a nearby nightclub and she was last seen leaving in a van of someone she knew. A sad but important reminder to all of us that most violence against women is perpetrated by someone the victim knows.

    I also can share that I had a chance meeting late last night with Kimberly’s father, aunt, and cousin who drove here from out-of-state to collect Kimberly’s body and child (Kimberly had moved here a few years ago from Dallas).

    They were in the parking lot of the Lucky supermarket as I was leaving the store and they were asking for directions to the park where Kimberly was found. I suggested they follow me by car since the road is partially one-way and the blocks are awkward in shape.

    When we arrived, the 1900 block of 3rd Ave was so dark we could hardly see. In sharing my condolences, I explained I had seen the crime scene and they asked me to describe where her body was found. It was a sad and painful conversation. But I told them the tragedy was on top of everyone’s mind and they expressed appreciation that Kimberly was in our neighborhood’s thoughts and prayers.

    I regret that the memorial wasn’t larger. I also regret that I wasn’t thinking clearly enough to offer constructive assistance in their navigating the city or even pass along contact info.

    They were incredibly kind. I wish I had the presence of mind to be more of a comfort to them — in fact they were comforting me for having experienced the crime scene more than I was able to comfort them for their loss.

    While we were standing there talking, a police car drove up the parallel block of Park Blvd. towards 580. I don’t know if the officer saw us but I wished he or she had turned around to come talk to us (if they weren’t on their way to a call).

    Kimberly’s relatives were next going to visit local nightclubs in search of answers.

    I pray that OPD can solve this case, bring Kimberly’s murderer to justice, and give some peace to her family. To be clear, every murder victim in Oakland deserves justice. But social science research finds that the overall health of a society can be gauged by gender equity and the cultural value and status afforded women in the community, so Oakland as a whole would do well by addressing this tragedy head-on and with care. Like the posted sign reads: violence against women is everyone’s problem.

    Does anyone remember seeing a van in the neighborhood late that night?

    If so, police and Crime Stoppers of Oakland are offering up to $10,000 in reward money for information leading to the arrest of the killer. Anyone with information may call police at 510-238-3821 or Crime Stoppers at 510-777-8572.

    -end-

    Reply
  6. Len Raphael

    OaklandNative, unconfirmed and hopefully bogus info re Alaysha Carradine (nickname Ladybug), the 8 year old murdered girl was worse than the media racism you describe. That it was a botched CeaseFire/OPD operation which would have arrested the shooter before the killing but was delayed for bureaucratic reasons a la Chauncey Bailey, not racial ones.

    Maybe just another Oakland rumor.

    Reply
  7. OaklandNative

    Len,

    As you know, there is the belief by many African Americans that a white life is more valued than an African American one. Holding the press conference for Salamon and not Ladybug supported the belief. After Salamon’s murder, I remember a councilman’s saying that the murders were out of control. People were saying “why out of control now? Wasn’t it out of control when Ladybug?” (By the way, the murder of the one year old baby was around the time. I think it was before Ladybug’s murder. This murder might have been included in the controversy)

    Desley Brooks commented at a city council meeting that all murders were tragedies. I don’t remember if the press release was canceled or not. I think it was canceled because of the controversy. I do remember more media attention was given to Ladybug after that. People made sure a vigil was held for Ladybug so at least her life would be mourned as well.

    At first, the Oakland Tribune seemed to use Salamon’s murder as a symbol of Oakland’s murders getting out of control. After the controversy, I remember the Oakland Tribune’s using Ladybug’s picture more when talking about Oakland’s murders getting out of control.

    Because of the way Robertson’s murder was handled, there was a lot of incorrect and unfair rumors about the killing. Initially, there were comments on Oakland Tribute’s blog that she might have been an old Asian woman who had gotten robbed. I am not going to repeat another rumor that came by phone. The person didn’t even live in Alameda County.

    A neighbor who saw her the night of the murder gave me the correct story. As I stated before, Ms. Golan’s essay is the first that really humanized Robertson. Salamon was humanized from the very beginning.

    Reply
  8. OaklandNative

    For many, the timing of the press conference after Salamon’s murder seemed to send the message “Wait, they’re killing white people now. Oakland’s murderers are out of control.”

    Reply
  9. Len Raphael

    OaklandNative, it finally happened but I’m getting numbed to murders here.

    Maybe it was looking at the news picture of Ladybug tonight and realizing that my own young granddaughters are moving here next month.

    On viewing crimes differently by race, did the death of the two white girls in East O occur before or after Alaysha Carradine and of Judy Salamon? That’s another one that got special media attention though not neighborhood blog attention probably maybe because one of the girls were portrayed as “trailer park” economic class who hung with local African American guys; and maybe it occurred in an area without a strong online blog Neighborhood Watch ?

    I don’t hecka love Oakland when It eats its most vulnerable young and old.

    Reply
  10. OaklandNative

    Len,
    I understand your concern for your granddaughters. There is a new intensity in Oakland crime. However, I have friends whose daughters have come out wonderfully. I wish you the best.

    As far as the two white girls. I think they were killed before Ladybug. I thought about them when I typed my earlier comment.

    I do remember thinking that the news article gave a detailed coverage of their stories and friends. There was a large photograph of the girls smiling. It was a full and detailed story that really humanized them. Most of the stories on murder victims seem to be a template: name, time, location, etc. However, these girls seemed to be “regular” rebellious adolescents (whether black or white) who got caught up with the wrong crowd at the wrong time.

    The girl’s socioeconomic status only explained why she was in the neighborhood in the first place.

    Reply
  11. John

    “WE ACKNOWLEDGE A KILLED PERSON WAS FOUND HERE, AND VIOLENCE IS EVERYBODY’S PROBLEM. SIGNED, OAKLAND.”

    Reply
  12. Oakie

    OaklandNative,

    I have no intent to view crime victims with the sole focus being their race. I can appreciate why you could, but I don’t. Until you mentioned it here, and I reread Yasman’s piece, it didn’t register that Ms. Robertson was AA.

    But I could certainly put forward an alternative reason why some people, including politicians, would focus on Ms. Salamon rather than Ms. Robertson: one was well known in the neighborhood, a pet lover who served the needs of other pet lovers, child of Holocaust survivors, and one who mastered five languages-quite an accomplishment. The other, a parent of a 2 year old who stayed in a bar in a not-too-good neighborhood until 2am (I lived on Haddon Hill for 15 years so I know it well, leaving because I got fed up with the crime), voluntarily being picked up on the street by someone driving around in that neighborhood at that time of night. No one wants to denigrate a murder victim, but I can see why people might not want to focus too much given what is known about the person’s behavior surrounding the incident.

    Instead of the race colored glasses, my concern about Ms. Salamon was the fact that she was essentially assassinated because she chose to get involved in challenging criminals who were in the act. For that, not only did they murder her, but as I said, I received a tweet from apparently another Oakland who called Ms. Salamon a hoe and snitch. Furthermore, OPD said they had no luck with witnesses coming forward until they finally got a lead weeks later and shook the trees and got more witnesses. And therein lies an important element into why we have so many murders and why they don’t get solved.

    Oakland’s murder rate is not normal. In a sea of cities with normal murder rates, only us and Richmond stand out (and they actually have reduced theirs quite a bit). That is why the Salamon case is of such importance, not her race.

    Reply
  13. Len Raphael

    Regardless of race, the OPD crime solving rate is abysmally low.

    I’m not at all convinced it’s because of the relatively low ratio of police to resident. Ron Ocz., retired OPD and former Mayoral candidate, made the point in one his posts that years ago OPD had about the same number of cops and more residents, but much lower crime rates. I don’t know if the solution rate was higher.

    Of course it was hurt by OPD’s decision several years ago to take experienced officers off investigative units to staff Internal Affairs to comply with the Riders Settlement and mollify the police union at same time. They’ve reversed that somewhat, recently.

    Are poor residents of color here more distrustful of cops than residents of other cities? Are they more worried about retaliation for snitching because of fewer cops to protect them?

    Those questions just seem to hang in the air unanswered like so many Oakland publicy questions as politicians, elected or wannabe, just play to our fears and hopes with promises.

    Reply
  14. r2d2ii

    “Are poor residents of color here more distrustful of cops than residents of other cities? Are they more worried about retaliation for snitching because of fewer cops to protect them?

    “Those questions just seem to hang in the air unanswered like so many Oakland publicy questions as politicians, elected or wannabe, just play to our fears and hopes with promises.”

    Absolutely. A critical point. Not a single candidate for Mayor has spoken about this. Not a single current Oakland elected official speaks about this.

    This lack of integrity and transparency in official Oakland is shame upon all of us in this city.

    Reply
  15. Len Raphael

    My younger son visiting today checking out awful rental market before he starts b school here. I asked him about possible motivation of people not to help cops here. He did tours in Iraq and Afghan as green beret. Class and school prez of Tech back in the day.

    His response was that it was normal rational behavior of people in violent areas not to cooperate because they know the odds of retaliation are high vs low odds of cops protecting them.

    When the cops/DA release/don’t monitor/investigate violent repeat offenders that assault middle class whites, there’s no hope for normal residents of poor sections of town.

    The reward for snitching is going to heaven.

    Reply
  16. r2d2ii

    “The reward for snitching is going to heaven.”

    One wonders about the character of the difference between Baghdad and Oakland. The numbers differ certainly. The lack of leadership, civic purpose, ethical sensibility must be much the same.

    No, it isn’t about Islam vs Christianity vs Judaism.

    It’s about “leaders” who are entirely corrupt, self-centered and incompetent.

    Reply
  17. OaklandNative

    Oakie,
    You admitted that when you re-read the essay, you were more aware of Ms. Robertson’s race. That suggests to me that you had on the rose-colored glasses and saw the story differently when you read the essay without them.

    Reply

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