Shuo Zeng was working on his laptop at the Montclair District Starbucks when someone stole it. He ran after the thief, was dragged by the getaway vehicle and later died.
Zeng's cousin who wishes to not publish her name shared with ABC7 News that, "He is the nicest guy I know, always so kind and encouraging. I believe he will still be with us."
She believes he either wanted to preserve all of his research or perhaps save the photos he was editing from their recent vacation together.
"I still can not believe that this happened," she said. "I do not want him to be remembered as a victim of a robbery because he's so much more than that. He's a scholar, he constantly reads."
The memorial was held at the same Starbucks on Mountain Boulevard in Oakland at 11:30 a.m. Since Thursday, the community has been mourning Zeng's death and post-it notes filled with condolences stuck to the Starbucks' window have grown.
1- People starting to arrive with flowers for a #vigil for Shuo Zeng.#BayArea #Oakland #friendsofshuo— Anser Hassan (@AnserHassan) January 5, 2020
On New Year's Eve, his laptop was stolen at the Montclair #Starbucks. He ran after the thief, was dragged by getaway vehicle and later died.
2- People have been posting post-it notes at the #Starbucks over the past few days with messages of condolence. Shuo Zeng’s family will be here from #China. #vigil #BayArea #Oakland #friendsofshuo https://t.co/nLyN40ZbUM pic.twitter.com/ttXvarrhWE— Anser Hassan (@AnserHassan) January 5, 2020
3- #Oakland City Councilmember Sheng Thao, speaking at the #vigil, hopes this incident will be the start of change. #Starbucks #BayArea #friendsofshuo https://t.co/nLyN40ZbUM pic.twitter.com/T7mEOcwH3G— Anser Hassan (@AnserHassan) January 5, 2020
Organizers asked people to wear purple to show solidarity. Shuo received his doctorate at Kansas State and the university's colors being royal purple.
Friends of #Oakland laptop robbery victim Shuo Zeng will honor him tomorrow 11:30am at a community memorial outside the Montclair Starbucks. They’re asking #friendsofshuo to wear purple. pic.twitter.com/NqPPXN8I5U— Kristen Sze ABC7 (@abc7kristensze) January 5, 2020
Friends of Shuo also sent ABC7 News information on if anyone would like to write kind messages to his parents, they are able to send them to the Zeng Family at 5900 Hollis Street, Suite E in Emeryville, Calif. 94608.
The messages will be forwarded to the victim's family in China.
“Never live in fear”— Julian Glover (@JulianGABC7) January 3, 2020
“I hope you’re in a better place now”
-2 of the messages left behind on post-its for a 34 y/o man killed outside of a Starbucks trying to get his stolen laptop back. This AM his parents are flying from China to identify his body https://t.co/3l2NQV3qSI pic.twitter.com/Hh5HkupXzd
Councilmember Sheng Thao plans to meet with the community in response to the laptop theft from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. at the Montclair's Farmers Market on Sunday.
"Nobody should feel unsafe walking around their neighborhood, working in a coffee shop, or operating a business in Oakland," Councilmember Thao said in a statement, "Oakland must prioritize its resources to not only protect its community but stop crimes before they happen."
Thao will also hold Public Safety Town Hall with Oakland Police Department on Jan. 9 from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at Montclair Presbyterian Church to propose new public safety policy.
"Oakland is a beautiful place to live," Thao said, "But tragedies like this remind us of the work we have to make it safer. My heart goes out to the family and loved ones of the victim and I am committed to finding solutions to this uptick in crime."
Two men have been charged in Shuo's death and appeared in court for the first time on Friday.
Byron Reed (left) and Javon Lee (right) charged in connection with Montclair Starbucks laptop robbery and death pic.twitter.com/jkAfe7M3u1— Melanie Woodrow (@MelanieWoodrow) January 3, 2020
22-year-old Byron Reed and 21-year-old Javon Lee were identified as suspects. Bail for Lee was set at $255,000, while Reed is being held without bail.
According to charging documents, Lee was involved in taking the laptop. He's charged with involuntary manslaughter and second-degree robbery. Lee was previously convicted in Feb. 2017 on second-degree robbery in San Francisco.
Reed is charged with special circumstance murder and second-degree robbery. He was previously convicted in November 2017 on second-degree robbery in San Francisco.
Both men will be back in court Monday at 9 a.m. to enter pleas and determine representation.