Calvin Kelley was shot and later died on April 26. in People's Park. A vigil was held for him there on April 29. Photo: Ted Friedman
Calvin Kelley was shot in People’s Park and later died on April 26. A vigil was held for him there on April 29. Kelley’s mother, Gloria Morris, left, holds his photo. Photo: Ted Friedman

A vigil for a 43-year-old man slain in People’s Park turned into an emotional exchange Monday when a family member questioned why none of his friends stopped the shooting, only to have three witnesses step up to describe the killing in detail.

“You guys touched my heart,” Porshia Garvin, the sister of Calvin Kelley, the man killed, said at the open-air gathering right next to the picnic table where the Friday shooting happened. “I know my brother was well loved out here. You guys seen him (the alleged shooter) when he walked up to this park with a gun in his hand. No one stopped it. This was a senseless murder that shouldn’t have happened.”

The three witnesses, all park regulars, said that no one saw the gun so they couldn’t have predicted that a shooting was about to happen.

UC Berkeley police have named Stefon Jefferson, 43, as the person suspected of shooting Kelley about 2:45 p.m. on Friday. Jefferson is also suspected of shooting Marcus Jackson, 57, a city of Berkeley worker, around 10:14 a.m. on Friday in the 4100 block of Market Street in Oakland, then driving to San Francisco, where he allegedly shot Laron Davis, 49. Police have said Jefferson was related to Jackson and Davis.

Jefferson was arrested in Nevada on Friday night after shooting a sheriff’s sergeant in the hand during a chase. He has been charged with attempted murder, among other crimes.

When Jefferson came to People’s Park on Friday, he double-parked a car on Dwight and then strode into the park. Jefferson had come to the park a number of times before, frequently double parking and dashing out to hand out food or clothes to park denizens, according to people at the park who did not give their names. He also played chess with Kelley on occasion. His park nickname was “Stone.”

On Friday, Jefferson’s eyes were huge and he seemed high, two men recounted during the vigil. He walked into the park without a shirt and with a jacket tied around his waist.

“We asked him how his day was going,” two of the witnesses told the 30 or so people at the vigil. “That’s when he said: ‘Somebody is trying to set me up.’”

Jefferson then went into the bushes to pee, according to the witnesses, who re-enacted many of Jefferson’s movements. He then strode toward Kelley, his pants hanging low.

The assailant then walked up behind Kelley, who had just woken up from a nap, and said, “We ain’t cool no more,” according to one witness. It was at this point that he pulled out a large gun and allegedly shot Kelley in the back of the head.

“Nobody assumed he would do that kind of thing, not in a million years,” said one witness.

As Jefferson left the park, those gathered at its west end scattered to get away from the gun.

Porshia Garvin, in the yellow shirt, listens as men who witnessed her brother’s murder tell her what happened. Photo: Frances Dinkelspiel

“My brother has been in this park for 21 years,” Garvin repeated as the witnesses, who would not give their names, told the story over and over. “For you not to do anything and let that happen?”

But after Garvin had absorbed what had happened to her brother, she said she was no longer mad at the people in the park, although she was still mad that her brother had been killed in such a senseless way.

Kelley is the second of five siblings to have been killed by gunshots, said Garvin. Another brother, Mark, was killed 21 years ago when he was just 24.

Family members decorated the table where Kelley frequently sat with tea lights spelling out his name, balloons and flowers. They perched a large photo of him on an easel.

Kelley’s mother Gloria Morris attended the memorial but was so distraught she could barely speak. She clutched a framed photo of Kelley at 17 in her hands. After a while, one of her young grandsons climbed on her lap to comfort her.

Kelley was born in San Leandro but grew up in Oakland. The Alameda County Coroner said he had been living in Berkeley. He has four children ranging from 18 to about 5 but was not married. His children were only informed of his death today, and were not at the vigil, said Dearie Lee Gellington, Kelley’s sister-in-law. Kelley worked from time to time as a dishwasher and in other jobs in restaurants, including at Baker’s Square in Castro Valley, said Toderick Gellington, his brother.

Many people remembered Kelley as a peace-keeper and a person who would do almost anything for anyone.

“Calvin was my brother,” said Dearie Lee Gellington, breaking into tears.”He had my back for everything. He helped me with my kids and everything. Every time I needed Calvin, he was there for me.”

Rick Collier, who works at the men’s shelter on Center Street, said he has known Kelley for decades and felt he was like a brother. Every morning at 6:45 a.m., Kelley would come to the shelter and hang out for about three hours before heading to People’s Park. The two would talk and laugh. Kelley always said the things he was proudest of were his children and playing in the Coliseum in his high school basketball championships. Kelley was only a freshman but he played for the varsity team, said Collier.

Jerrod Hubbard had come to the park to lay some flowers at the site where Kelley was shot and stumbled upon the vigil. He said he and Kelley were extremely close and Hubbard regarded him “as a little brother.”

“We talked about sports,” said Hubbard. “He loved the Raiders and the Warriors. We would go to Kips and have a beer and watch sports.”

Hubbard said he woke up crying Monday morning thinking about Kelley.

The shooting — the first killing ever in People’s Park, which is currently celebrating its 50th anniversary — has affected many people who congregate there.

Roosevelt Stephens, one of the men who witnessed the shooting and spoke out at the vigil, said he keeps replaying the incident in his head.

“I keep hearing those shots in my head,” Stephens said. “The sound of the gun. I knew it wasn’t firecrackers, it was too loud.”

Kelley was the fourth person Stephens has seen shot, he said. Another was David Nadel, who owned Ashkenaz and who was killed in 1996 after he escorted a customer out of the San Pablo Avenue building.

Pastor Eric Young, who said a few words about Kelley at the service, condemned the violence that takes the lives of so many, particularly black men.

The 50th-anniversary celebration of the park ended Sunday evening with a shout-out to Kelley.

The family has launched a GoFundMe campaign to raise funds for those Kelley left behind.

Calvin Kelley was shot and later died on April 26. A vigil was held for him on April 29. Photo: Ted Friedman
Oakland Pastor Eric Young spoke at the vigil. Kelley’s sister-in-law, Dearie Lee Gellington, and brother, Toderick Gellington, stand nearby. Photo: Ted Friedman
Calvin Kelley sat at the same table in People’s Park every day. He liked to play chess, dominos and pinochle. The table was the center of the vigil. Photo: Ted Friedman
Gloria Morris, Kelley’s mother, holds a framed photo of him at 17. Photo: Ted Friedman
A vigil was held for Calvin Kelley on April 29. Photo: Ted Friedman

Frances Dinkelspiel, Berkeleyside and CItyside co-founder, is a journalist and author. Her first book, Towers of Gold: How One Jewish Immigrant Named Isaias Hellman...