Memorial honors lives lost during last year’s Oikos University campus shooting
on April 8, 2013
Tucked away in the industrial district surrounding Oakland’s Coliseum is an independent Christian university that serves as a theology, nursing and music school. Oikos University, a small private school, is affiliated with the Praise God Korean Presbyterian Church and has a student population of about 100. It’s surrounded by the Oakland International Airport, a Walmart and several local corporate headquarters. Before April 2, 2012, very few East Bay residents even knew that a school existed at 7850 Edgewater Drive.
“We all thought it was a massage parlor,” said Andre Jones, a security guard who works at Edgewater Park Plaza, just several yards from the school.
But just over one year ago, the school became the subject of national headlines when One L. Goh, a 43-year-old former nursing student at the university who was allegedly angry about a tuition refund dispute, went to look for an administrator who had left the school prior to the shooting. He then opened fire on his classmates, killing seven and wounding three.
The victims ranged in age from 21 to 53. Many were immigrants, hailing from countries as diverse as Korea, the Philippines, Nigeria and Nepal. Six of the victims were women.
On Saturday, a memorial concert honoring the victims and survivors was held at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Oakland. About 100 mourners, including Mayor Jean Quan, filled the church to listen to Mozart’s Requiem as performed by the San Francisco Master Chorale. Proceeds from the event were donated to Oikos University with the intent of helping victims’ families, said Jason Zyung, head of the San Francisco Master Chorale.
This event was one of two concerts being held for the victims. The second one will be held in Sacramento at the Capital Korean Presbyterian Church on April 13.
Photos of the seven students were displayed in the front hall, visible to anyone who entered the church. Words were scarce during the service—after a few short speeches from Quan, the chairman of the San Francisco Master Chorale and a reading of a letter from Senator Barbara Lee, who represents Oakland, the concert began. There were no speeches from family members or school administrators.
“It’s a memorial for the seven we lost, honoring them and their families,” said Lia Little, a nursing instructor at Oikos who helped set up the nursing program almost four years ago, pausing as her voice shook. “We’re wishing them the best, that they can move on with their lives and make the best of it.”
Little’s sentiment was echoed by other mourners. “A year ago, we had a big tragedy, so this time we kind of worked together and memorialized them,” said attendee You Cheng. “Everybody has a kind of sadness and shock, but one year is a very long period. This way, we have to move forward.”
But for some, the campus shooting is hard to forget. “That day was crazy,” said Jones, the security guard who had been working nearby. On the morning of April 2, 2012, at around 10:30 a.m., he finished his morning patrol rounds and when he returned to his desk, he was informed by the Oakland Police Department not to leave the property.
“They did not tell me anything,” Jones said. “We had no idea about what was going on.”
Jones found out about the shooting next door after his mother called, asking if he was okay—she had heard about the shooting on the news. Soon, workers were evacuated from the complex. Jones saw victims laid out on the grass for only minutes before a line of OPD officers blocked the view.
According to court documents, after the shooting, Goh took one of the victim’s cars and drove to Alameda. He was detained by Alameda Police Department officers at a Safeway and then turned over to the Oakland police. According to court documents, during an interview with officers, Goh admitted to bringing at handgun and four fully loaded magazines of ammunition to the campus, kidnapping a woman and forcing her from her office at gunpoint and shooting and killing several classmates before fleeing.
Goh is currently at the Napa State Hospital, according to his attorney. He went on trial at the Alameda County Superior Courthouse in January, but a judge suspended his case and ruled he was incompetent to stand trial because he has paranoid schizophrenia, according to a January article in the San Francisco Chronicle. Goh faces seven counts of murder and three counts of attempted murder and is expected to be back in court on April 29 for an update on his treatment progress. He has pleaded not guilty.
His attorney, Alameda County public defender David Klaus, declined to comment for this story. Official representatives of Oikos University did not return phone messages or emailed interview requests, and some staffers contacted on the campus said they had trouble understanding English. Victims’ family members were unable to be reached, as a phone number dedicated to financial relief for the families had been disconnected.
While news of the shooting initially filled local newspapers and national news outlets, the media’s attention regarding Oikos University soon faded. “We later saw in the same year another mass murder that would leave this one in the shadow,” said Quan during the Saturday night event, referring to the shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, on December 12, 2012, in which 26 people, including 20 children, were killed.
In a recent speech about gun control, President Barack Obama named several recent mass shootings: The July, 2012, one in Aurora, Colorado during which 12 people were killed when a shooter came into a midnight screening of The Dark Knight Rises, and a December, 2012, shooting at a shopping mall in Clackamas County, Oregon, which left 2 dead and one injured. But Oikos was not named.
“All of these incidents are tragedies, but we have seen more coverage with more fatalities,” said Marisa Randazzo, an expert on school shootings and managing partner of Sigma Threat Management Associates, an organization that analyzes threats to businesses, educational institutions and individuals.
Randazzo has studied school shootings, like the one at Virginia Tech on April 16, 2007, in which 32 people were killed. The exact reason for Oikos’ lack of coverage is unknown, she said. Factors like the time of the shooting, other prominent news events that might have happened at that time and the name recognition of the institution involved can play a role. “Oikos was a less well-known institution compared to other well-named institutions because of collegiate sports, academic reputation,” she said.
While there may be a difference in media coverage, Randazzo said, the demeanor of the shooter is often the same in these kinds of mass murders. “No matter what domain, it’s usually people who are suicidal or at the point of personal desperation—they feel like violence is the only option, or best option, they have left,” she said.
But she emphasized that these people are usually not psychopaths. As part of her job, she and her colleagues work with organizations or individuals who receive threats to see if they are cause for serious concern. When they identify the people who send these threats, she said, they’re usually able to identify the problem that is troubling the person and get them mental health care. When this happens, Randazzo said, the person’s desire for violence goes away.
Information about prior shootings can help prevent ones in the future, Randazzo said. In this respect, media coverage of trials can be beneficial, because they may explain more about the reasoning behind the shootings, she said, and experts can start to learn about warning signs that will help them better prevent future incidents. “The more we can learn about what this person was doing, the better the sense we have of preventing these incidents overall,” Randazzo said.
Oikos is trying to move past the tragedy. Today on the campus, a white and blue “Oikos University” sign hangs from the building, while seven remembrance stones line the steps of the rectangular building. In the school’s entryway, a sign that reads “IN MEMORIAM, Joined Together Forever in Life” sits on the stair landing. On a nearby wall, a sign reads “Nursing classes beginning soon: Now accepting applications.”
According to a school staff member, the school’s nursing program was reinstated in February and administrators are trying to recruit its seventh nursing class. Little said they are approved for 30 students. “We’re still there. We’re still working,” she said.
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