Man shot while feeding homeless in Oakland dies


At the place where the man known as "Brother John" handed out his last meal to the homeless, there is a simple memorial left behind by those with little else to give. A homeless man sat on the sidewalk and reflected in front of a carefully placed pair of shoes that held up a few colorful roses and some satin material. Even on the rough streets of East Oakland, this shooting does not make sense. A man who was just trying to do the right thing is dead.

On Thursday, the last man Brother John helped before he died is left wondering if it was all worth it.

A homeless man named Bill said, "What comes to mind at this point in time right now is just how weird this world is becoming. Life isn't worth nothing no more. It's nothing out here. If somebody can just come along and shoot somebody just for the hell of it just because they want to, that's not right."

Out here, where he delivered food during what he called "midnight outreach" with his wife and two young daughters, he is simply Brother John. His real name is Parris Powell and he was just 29 years old.

But late Wednesday night, Brother John was taken off life support at Highland Hospital and pronounced dead, less than 24 hours after he was shot in the head while serving fish dinners from the back of his van.

"I was the last person he brought food to. I was the last person he fed. I was the last person he talked to. I'm the last one on everything," said Bill.

Brother John's pregnant wife was grazed by a bullet. One of his daughters was shot in the arm. Investigators still do not have a motive for a crime that has left the police chief and mayor outraged.

"Most of the time, murders are related to drugs, to domestic violence, or to gangs, this one is not explainable at all," said Oakland Mayor Jean Quan.

"I want to give a message though. And the message I want to give is the Oakland Police Department is coming," said Oakland Police Chief Anthony Batts.

Police say there are witnesses and that they have come forward and are helping with this investigation, but so far authorities have yet to provide a suspect or vehicle description. The witness ABC7 spoke to says he saw the shooter was driving a late-model turquoise Ford Aerostar van.

There is not a lot coming out about Brother John's background. We do know that he is an Oakland resident and has been working in the area of East Oakland for almost a year now where he was shot, serving the homeless in that community. Besides delivering meals, he ran a very small non-profit based in Oakland called the Rise Above Foundation and that organization works with the homeless and female victims of domestic violence.

We also found out that Brother John's wife is pregnant and that they have two daughters together.

Anyone with information about the shooting is asked to call the Police Department's homicide section at (510) 238-3744 or email

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