Berkeley grieves for Isaac Mitchell, beloved teen killed in shooting

Mitchell, 17, was killed in an Oakland shooting last month. He is remembered as a budding scientist, loyal friend and source of positivity.

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A memorial at Berkeley’s Strawberry Creek Park honors Isaac Mitchell, a Berkeley teen who was killed in a shooting May 16. Credit: Kelly Keller

Isaac Mitchell, a teenager who grew up in Berkeley, was killed in an East Oakland shooting last month. He was 17.

Mitchell was shot on East 26th Street near Morgan Plaza in Oakland the evening of May 16, according to the Oakland Police Department. Another 17-year-old was also shot and killed on East 26th Street that evening. An adult male has been detained in connection with the double homicide, police said.

Mitchell had a passion for understanding human behavior, his family said, and he dreamed of attending UC Berkeley and studying psychology. He loved skateboarding in Berkeley’s Longfellow neighborhood and often played basketball with his friends at Strawberry Creek Park. Toward the end of his life, Mitchell started learning how to drive.

Mitchell attended Malcolm X Elementary and REALM Charter School in Berkeley. He was enrolled at Ralphe Bunche Academy in West Oakland when he died.

After his death, a memorial sprung up next to Strawberry Creek Park in Mitchell’s honor, overflowing with letters, photographs, candles and flowers.

“You are so loved and will be painfully missed. Your time came way too soon and our hearts are shattered. What an unfair tragedy,” Mitchell’s elementary school teachers from Malcolm X wrote in a letter posted on his memorial.

Family members describe Mitchell as a mentor figure who inspired positivity in those around him.

“Isaac looked after everybody. He tried his best to make sure everybody had a smile on them at the end of the day,” said Arion Webb, Mitchell’s aunt, who described him as a little brother and a best friend who would often ask those around him what they were thankful for.

“Losing Isaac was a tragedy on everybody. He was a positive role model in this world, and we need more people like him,” Webb said.

Mitchell showed a passion for science in elementary school. Credit: Lisa Kelly

At Mitchell’s funeral, held at the Faith Tabernacle Church of God in Richmond on June 5, family members said that the biblical name Isaac means “one who laughs.”

“He was that,” said Lisa Kelly, who taught Mitchell in fourth and sixth grade. “If there was a moment of joy happening, he wanted to be a part of it.”

“That’s my little brother, but I looked up to him,” said Isaac’s brother, Isaiah Mitchell, 23. “I looked up to how he treated others with the sincerity, honesty and respect that they deserved, and for the love that he radiated, regardless of whatever they went through.”

Mitchell’s teachers remember him as a budding scientist, loyal friend and source of positivity. Even at a young age, Mitchell had a passion for science, enjoying the discovery and investigation of the subject. In fourth grade, the family bought Mitchell a chemistry set. From then on, every day was a new experiment.

“It was really bittersweet to hear that he wanted to be a scientist because that was really evident early on. Science was really when he would light up,” said Joemy Ito-Gates, Mitchell’s third-grade teacher.

Mitchell’s childhood friend Carter Stanton, 16, said it was hard to put into words what losing his friend meant. “Losing someone who shaped you, who you were always with growing up, is really tough. It’s hard to understand that that person isn’t here anymore,” Stanton said.

When he died, Mitchell became one of 53 people killed in Oakland in 2021. In the last year and a half, Oakland — like other cities across the country — has seen a spike in homicides coinciding with the pandemic. Black teens and young adults make up a disproportionate number of homicide victims nationwide.

“Black students being killed by gun violence is something that affects all of us,” said Lisa Kelly, who taught Mitchell in fourth grade at Malcolm X Elementary and in sixth grade at REALM Charter. “As a Black teacher myself, it’s just tragic to keep losing kids in my community.”

“It feels like a great injustice that [Isaac’s] no longer here. And it’s a huge loss to our community that we don’t get to witness the joy of him growing up,” Ito-Gates said.

A GoFundMe page has been set up for the community to offer support and condolences.

“He always tried to spread positivity. That’s what we’re trying to do by keeping his memory alive,” Webb said.

Ally Markovich covers education for Berkeleyside. Email: ally@berkeleyside.org. Twitter: allymarkovich.