Davante Riley, former Fremont student, killed at 18th birthday party


A GREAT FRIEND Davante Riley spent Friday with friends and former classmates from Media Academy on a beach for Senior Picnic Day. His 18th birthday was Saturday. He was fatally shot at 12:14 a.m. on Sunday. Photo by Luz Rojas

Just hours after wishing Davante Riley a happy birthday, Fremont students were grieving his death.

Riley, 18, was fatally shot on Sunday, just 14 minutes after his 18th birthday ended.  He died at 12:47 a.m., according to news reports. A girl has been arrested for his murder, but her name has not been released because she allegedly is 15-years-old. Some reports say that she and Riley were dating for about two weeks.

Students at Fremont walked around campus on Monday with small photos of Riley they had picked up on a memorial table for Riley.  Counselors were on site to help students with their grief.

Paul Robeson senior Justice Thomas remembered Riley as the first friend he made in high school.

“Davante was my brother … He gave me my name ‘Jay Weez,’” Thomas said. “He was loving, sweet, and even though he got on my nerves sometimes he was always cracking jokes.”

Dannisha Kelly, a Paul Robeson senior, had a profound thought about Riley’s untimely death.

“He was a good boy who stayed out of trouble, but I guess trouble found him,” she said.

Some were in near denial of the cold facts of Riley’s murder.

“I’m sad, he is my brother, and to me he is still here,” said Clarissa Cherry, a Paul Robeson junior.

On Monday, students wrote positive comments about Riley on giant memorial signs near the cafeteria. One of the signs read, “I (heart) you Tay forever. Your name will remain in my heart.”

Howard Ruffner, the Media Academy yearbook teacher, posted photos on the signs that showed Riley enjoying a day at the beach with seniors from Media Academy. That photo was taken on Friday during the Senior Picnic, which Makender Jean-Philippe attended.

“One minute I was shaking his hand goodbye,and wishing him a Happy 18th birthday after our senior picnic,” said Jean-Philippe. “The next thing I know, he’s dead. It feels like too many deaths are happening in our community, and the pain is becoming too intense.”

Another person who spent Friday with Riley was senior Warnisha Trahan.

“He was funny, always smiling, loving, and energetic,” she said.

According to sfgate.com, a teenage girl was arrested early Sunday for Riley’s murder. Riley was at a party in an apartment at 2257 E. 20th St. when a fight broke out just after midnight. Police arrested the girl at the party and said it was neither gang-related nor accidental.

Some students say the reports about it being a party are false. They say Riley was just with a few people.

Teachers at Media Academy remembered Riley on Monday and helped students deal with their grief.

Media Studies teacher Richard Yacco remembers Riley having a “great smile.”

“This is tragic,” he said.

Eric DuBois, the case manager at Media Academy, said he frequently talked to Riley and got to know his family well, including his grandfather.

“He was loving and respectful,” said DuBois.

DuBois said that even after Riley transferred to Ralph J. Bunche Academy continuation school, he would come back and show off his good grades.

Students said Riley planned on going to Chico State University.

Principal Benjamin Schmookler of Media Academy was shook up.

“I am tired of seeing students die,” said Schmookler. “He was a nice kid.”

Michael Jackson, director of the Media Academy, has also seen a lot of death after teaching for decades at Fremont.

“Any loss of life is a loss of love; the tears cried today join the tears of so many lost in youth.”

This is the second time in less than a month that Oakland teens have had to grieve for a friend who was celebrating his 18th birthday when killed. Eric Toscano, a Skyline High senior, was shot on March 27.