One suspected killer was in custody and detectives were scouring the Bay Area on Wednesday for two alleged accomplices in the slaying of an African American musician who investigators said was targeted because of his race.
Daniel Porter-Kelly, 31, of Richmond, was arrested Nov. 16 and charged with murder, robbery and the special circumstance of committing a racially motivated crime, which could bring the death penalty if he is convicted.
Contra Costa County sheriff’s investigators believe Porter-Kelly and two other men — Ray Simons, 32, of Hercules, and Daniel Ortega, 31, of Novato — attacked and killed Sims outside a nearby pool hall.
Simons and Ortega remained at large Wednesday. Porter-Kelly’s Berkeley-based defense attorney, Seth Morris, declined to talk about the case. All three men are white.
The death shocked and horrified relatives and friends of Sims, a singer, guitarist and piano player who was described as a generous, friendly man who never harmed anyone.
“He was a very kind and loving person,” said his sister, Stacey Sims, 33, who lived with her brother and parents in a neat suburban home in a quiet subdivision in eastern Richmond. “He loved music. He loved making friends. He was the best brother a sister could ever have. It’s been very difficult. It still seems unreal.”
His parents, Bill and Renee Sims, set up a memorial for their son with photographs and written condolences in the entryway of their house. A table with graduation pictures, cards and a basket of flowers was in the living room, where their son regularly played a baby grand piano.
“We want to have justice,” said a somber Bill Sims, 72, about his namesake son. “It’s the worst thing that’s ever happened to me. He was not aggressive. He was never involved in any violence. He was always trying to befriend people, maybe to a fault.”
Investigators believe Sims was inside the Capri Club — a pool hall and bar in the 4100 block of Appian Way in El Sobrante — in the early morning hours of Nov. 12 when the suspects jumped, robbed, beat and then shot him as he attempted to escape.
A sheriff’s sergeant came across Sims’ body in the street near the pool hall just after 2 a.m. He was pronounced dead at the scene. Sims, who worked in retail, had no gang ties or criminal history, said Jimmy Lee, a spokesman for the sheriff’s office.
Police have been searching for Simons and Ortega since Friday, when they raided the condominium in Novato owned by Ortega’s 54-year-old mother, Renee Brown. Detectives arrested Brown on suspicion of interfering with the investigation. She is being held on $500,000 bail.
Neighbors said Ortega is “a big, quiet guy” who has recently been seen only occasionally at the home, which is in the Meadow Park area of the former Hamilton Field military base.
“He’s been nothing but polite, helpful and friendly,” said Laura Dimond, who lives next door with her husband, Bob. “I’m shocked to hear this, really.”
The three suspects in the killing were well known in the El Sobrante neighborhood where the crime occurred.
Saleem Ismail, the manager of Appian Food and Liquor, across the street from the Capri Club, said he has seen all three suspects in his store “many times.” He and the local library provided surveillance footage to sheriff’s investigators, who apparently used the video to identify the alleged killers.
Anthony Rayford, 39, a local construction worker, said he was friends with the suspects and would sometimes employ them. They often frequented the Capri Club after work, he said.
“I would never expect that type of behavior out of them,” said Rayford, who was wearing a Make America Great Again hat. “Every time they’ve worked with me and for me, I’ve never had any trouble with any of them. Always on time and hard workers. … It’s hard for me to swallow that they would be charged for this.”
Sims was also well known in the area, where he enjoyed having drinks and playing pool with his many friends.
“Will was an amazing human being,” said Brett Murphy, who described how they became best friends after Sims had reached out to him when he was going through a divorce. “He cared for and helped others any chance he got. He always wanted others to be as happy and have as much fun as he was. He made friends with everyone. He was very charismatic.”
Murphy said Sims and he were singing karaoke at the Captain’s Chest Cocktail Lounge in Concord on the night he died. The last song Sims performed was Taylor Swift’s “Shake it Off.”
Sims was, by all accounts, an accomplished musician whose singing voice was a deep, sexy bass.
He had performed with a university group called JAZZ-ology since 2012. The group had won several awards and had been a featured attraction at festivals like the Reno Jazz Festival and the Next Generation Jazz Festival in Monterey.
“I think the music world will not be the same without him,” she said. “There’s many of us musicians who make the music about ourselves. And this is something you can’t say about him. Will never made the music about himself. He always made the music about music.”
At Ed’s Place on San Pablo Dam Road, photographs of Sims playing the piano and generally enjoying life were plastered all over the walls.
“I used to flirt with him even though I’m old enough to be his mama. He would just smile,” said Debi Schaffer, 56, the bartender, who said he had beautiful eyes and a great smile. “Of all people, Will, come on. It’s just a very, very senseless crime.”
A memorial will be held for Sims at 1 p.m. on Dec. 3 at Hilltop Green Club House, 1095 Parkside Drive, in Richmond.
Sarah Ravani, Jenna Lyons, Evan Sernoffsky and Peter Fimrite are San Francisco Chronicle staff writers. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com Twitter: @SarRavani, @JennaJourno, @EvanSernoffsky and @pfimrite
Now, more than ever, our work, leadership, love and compassion is needed in the world.
We are saddened by the rhetoric that was used against our immigrant neighbors during this most unusual presidential campaign. There will be a lot of uncertainty in the future, particularly for our clients and the many who are not yet our clients, but need a helping hand. Our fervent hope is that reason will govern the new President’s term.
Our nation is deeply divided, and there is a lot of work to be done. We pledge to support vulnerable and at-risk children and families in this time of insecurity. We will continue to use our skills and resources to make sure that immigrants’ rights are protected. We ask that you remember that the unique character of the United States was established through the courage, creativity, skills and labor of our immigrant ancestors.
We welcome the support of those who want to join us to keep families together, protect victims of violence and prepare our low-income clients to contribute valuable cultural and economic assets to our community.
Emiliano Lerda, J.D., LL.M.
Justice For Our Neighbors-Nebraska (JFON-NE)
Mensaje post-elección de Justicia Para Nuestros Vecinos-NE.
Ahora, más que nunca, nuestro trabajo, liderazgo, amor y compasión son necesarios en el mundo.
Nos entristece la retórica que se usó contra nuestros vecinos inmigrantes durante esta insólita campaña presidencial. Habrá mucha incertidumbre en el futuro, particularmente para nuestros clientes y para los muchos que aún no son nuestros clientes, pero necesitan una mano. Nuestra ferviente esperanza es que la razón gobierne en el mandato del nuevo presidente.
Nuestra nación está profundamente dividida, y hay mucho trabajo por hacer. Nos comprometemos a apoyar a niños y familias vulnerables y a riesgo en este momento de inseguridad. Seguiremos utilizando nuestras habilidades y recursos para asegurar que los derechos de los inmigrantes estén protegidos. Le pedimos que recuerde que el carácter único de los Estados Unidos se estableció a través del valor, la creatividad, las habilidades y el trabajo de nuestros antepasados inmigrantes.
Damos la bienvenida al apoyo de aquellos que quieran unirse a nosotros para mantener a las familias unidas, proteger a las víctimas de la violencia y preparar a nuestros clientes de bajos ingresos para que aporten valiosos aportaciones culturales y económicos a nuestra comunidad.
Un cordial saludo,
Emiliano Lerda, J.D., LL.M.
Justicia Para Nuestros Vecinos- NE (JFON-NE)
editors note: this speech was given on October 21, 2016 by a graduate student at the UNL. These words remind us to become one humane community in the face of a polarizing fascist regime.
Let me begin with a quote by the brilliant novelist Toni Morrison-
The past is already in debt to the mismanaged present. And besides, contrary to what you may have heard or learned, the past is not done and it is not over, it’s still in process, which is another way of saying that when it’s critiqued, analyzed, it yields new information about itself. The past is already changing as it is being reexamined, as it is being listened to for deeper resonances. Actually it can be more liberating than any imagined future if you are willing to identify its evasions, its distortions, its lies, and are willing to unleash its secrets
Demands for social justice in the United States can be traced back to the nineteenth century movements which advocated abolishing the institution of slavery, extending the ballot, providing equality before the law, and other unfinished battles…This rally, this moment is the tangible embodiment of an unfinished battle for African American’s equal right to live as free and dignified human beings who shape their own life and destiny.
Not one who can at any moment become the victim of extrajudicial murder.
Throughout our nation’s history there have been …Trailblazers of egalitarianism such as William Lloyd Garrison, Seth Concklin, Chief Standing Bear, Frederick Douglass, Harriet Jacobs, Ida B. Wells, George Washington Carver, Franz Boas, Pauli Murray, Fannie Lou Hamer, Cesar Chavez, Thurgood Marshall, James Baldwin, Gloria Steinem, Bayard Rustin, Martin Luther King, Harvey Milk, Mother Theresa, The Dalai Lama, and many, many others. Responses to the push for social justice brought about during the Civil Rights movement provided historically vulnerable communities with the basic fundamental protection of citizenship in terms of federal policy that had been lacking for hundreds of years.
But we must ask ourselves if these protections are truly upheld in light of the continued extrajudicial killings.?
Are we to be one people bound together by common spirit, sharing in a common endeavor; or will we become a divided community? For all of the future’s uncertainty, we cannot flee the future. We cannot reject our society. We must address a better future together. It can be done if we restore the belief that we share a sense of humane community, that we share a common life bond. It can be done.
There is no mandate that can require the American people to form a more humane community. This we must do as individuals, and if we do it as individuals, there is no entity that can stop us.
“NO PEACEFUL TRANSITION
#DisruptJ20: Call for a bold mobilization against the inauguration of Donald Trump on January 20, 2017
On Friday, January 20, 2017, Donald Trump will be inaugurated as President of the United States. We call on all people of good conscience to join in disrupting the ceremonies. If Trump is to be inaugurated at all, let it happen behind closed doors, showing the true face of the security state Trump will preside over. It must be made clear to the whole world that the vast majority of people in the United States do not support his presidency or consent to his rule.
Trump stands for tyranny, greed, and misogyny. He is the champion of neo-nazis and white Nationalists, of the police who kill the Black, Brown and poor on a daily basis, of racist border agents and sadistic prison guards, of the FBI and NSA who tap your phone and read your email. He is the harbinger of even more climate catastrophe, deportation, discrimination, and endless war. He continues to deny the existence of climate change, in spite of all the evidence, putting the future of the whole human race at stake. The KKK, Vladimir Putin, Golden Dawn, and the Islamic State all cheered his victory. If we let his inauguration go unchallenged, we are opening the door to the future they envision.
Trump’s success confirms the bankruptcy of representative democracy. Rather than using the democratic process as an alibi for inaction, we must show that no election could legitimize his agenda. Neither the Democrats nor any other political party or politician will save us—they just offer a weaker version of the same thing. If there is going to be positive change in this society, we have to make it ourselves, together, through direct action.
From day one, the Trump presidency will be a disaster. #DisruptJ20 will be the start of the resistance. We must take to the streets and protest, blockade, disrupt, intervene, sit in, walk out, rise up, and make more noise and good trouble than the establishment can bear. The parade must be stopped. We must delegitimize Trump and all he represents. It’s time to defend ourselves, our loved ones, and the world that sustains us as if our lives depend on it—because they do.
In Washington, DC
DC will not be hospitable to the Trump administration. Every corporation must openly declare whether they side with him or with the people who will suffer at his hands. Thousands will converge and demonstrate resistance to the Trump regime. Save the date. A website will appear shortly with more details. #DisruptJ20
Around the US
If you can’t make it to Washington, DC on January 20, take to the streets wherever you are. We call on our comrades to organize demonstrations and other actions for the night of January 20. There is also a call for a general strike to take place. Organize a walkout at your school now. Workers: call out sick and take the day off. No work, no school, no shopping, no housework. #DisruptJ20
Around the World
If you are living outside the US, you can take action at US embassies, borders, or other symbols of neocolonial power. Our allegiance is not to “making America great again,” but to all of humanity and the planet. #DisruptJ20
Spread the word. Join the fight. #DisruptJ20
CrimethInc. Workers’ Collective
It’s Going Down
New York Anarchist Action
NYC Anarchist Black Cross
Pittsburgh Autonomous Student Network
Pittsburgh Student Solidarity Coalition
Pitt Against Debt
Pitt Students for a Democratic Society
Steel City (A) Team
Antifa Seven Hills
Black Rose Book Distro St. Louis
Resonance: An anarchist audio distro
If you endorse this call, sign your name at the bottom of this list and circulate it. Email firstname.lastname@example.org to be included in the above list.”