Oakland education activist gunned down in home remembered as 'tireless advocate' for students

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ByLaura Anthony KGO logo
Tuesday, October 5, 2021
EB activist fatally shot in home remembered as 'tireless advocate'
While police investigate, friends and colleagues remember the man they say was a tireless advocate, especially for Oakland's disadvantaged.

OAKLAND, Calif. (KGO) -- Shock and sadness in Oakland after a prominent education advocate was gunned down in his own home over the weekend.

Dirk Tillotson was shot inside his house in the Maxwell Park neighborhood just before 11:30 p.m. Friday by an intruder.

While police investigate, friends and colleagues, remember the man they say was a tireless advocate, especially for Oakland's disadvantaged.

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"This is a person that focused on students and equity, that focused on families," said David Silver, the Director of Education appointed by Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf. "It's just not okay that someone who has given so much to the community, so much to educational equity, so much to others, has this happen to them."

Police say the 52-year-old Tillotson heard a noise, went to investigate and was shot and killed by an intruder. His wife was also wounded but is in stable condition.

Police have indicated the couple or their home may have been targeted.

"There are some motives that we're looking into that I can't discuss today with you, but we do have a couple angles that we're looking at," said Oakland Police Chief LeRonne Armstrong. "But nothing we think should have lead to his death."

Tillotson was the founder of Great School Voices, a nonprofit watchdog for quality and equity for Oakland schoolchildren.

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"For me, I think the irony is that he was such a giving person," said Jumoke Hinton, former Oakland School Board member. "Had someone walked up to him and knocked on his door in the middle of the night and said 'hey, I need something' that he would've given it to them."

Hinton and Silver both told ABC7 News, Tillotson's impact was especially great during the pandemic when Oakland kids were learning remotely.

"He was someone who said it's not ok for some communities to have access to the internet, and others not," said Silver. "He was the champion for internet for all."

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Investigators returned to Tillotson's Maxwell Park neighborhood to talk to residents, including Addis Rezene.

"I've never met a man like him," said Rezene. "Right now, I don't want to be in Oakland. We're trying. We're trying as a community to keep crime down, but we're not in control."

In a written statement, Oakland Unified School District Superintendent Kyla Johnson-Trammell said of Tillotson:

"Dirk Tillotson was a fierce advocate for the education of Oakland's young people, and he was dedicated to the betterment of our world in everything he did. He will be deeply missed by our district community, but we know the mark he left on it will support our students for years to come."

A GoFundMe has been set up to help the Tillotson family, if you would like to donate click here.