Two previously convicted robbers have been arrested and are facing charges in the New Year's Eve death of a 34-year-old Oakland man whose laptop computer they were allegedly trying to steal.
The victim has been identified as Shuo Zeng, and witnesses say that he was attempting to chase after two thieves when he was struck by the getaway vehicle and died from his injuries on Tuesday. Friends told ABC 7 on Thursday that they were waiting outside Zeng's apartment in the Montclair neighborhood of Oakland on Tuesday waiting to celebrate both his birthday and New Year's Eve when they found out that he had died.
Friday afternoon, two suspects in the theft and subsequent death were set to be arraigned at the Wiley W. Manuel Courthouse in Oakland, as Bay City News reports. They've been identified as Byron OJ Reed Jr., 22, of San Francisco, and Javon Eugene Lee, 21. Reed faces a charge of murder with the special circumstance of committing a murder during a robbery; Lee faces a charge of involuntary manslaughter. Both men are charged with second-degree robbery as well as several special allegations, according to the Chronicle.
Zeng had been working on his computer as he often did at the Starbucks on the 2000 block of Mountain Boulevard in Montclair just after 11:30 a.m. on Tuesday. Via his LinkedIn profile we know he was a research scientist and engineer at Aspera, an IBM company based in Emeryville, and moved to the Bay Area in 2015 after getting a doctorate at Kansas State University.
Surveillance footage shows that Zeng chased after the two thieves, identified as Reed and Lee, and they then fled to a waiting getaway vehicle outside. Oakland police Officer Gerald Moriarty wrote in a probably cause statement that a "scuffle ensued" before Zeng was ultimately hit by the getaway vehicle, which was allegedly driven by Reed. An early description of the incident on ABC 7 described Zeng as possibly holding onto the handle of a car door on the vehicle, and subsequently slamming his head into a parked car as the getaway vehicle drove off.
Reed and Lee were arrested Wednesday in Oakland, according to the Chronicle, though Bay City News says the arrest happened at 4 p.m. Tuesday on the 9400 block of MacArthur Boulevard in Oakland.
Both men have previous second-degree robbery convictions — Reed's in an incident in San Francisco on November 22, 2017, and Lee's stemming from another San Francisco incident on February 27, 2017.
Speaking to ABC 7, Montclair Village Association assistant director Toni Mikulka credits recently installed cameras in the area for helping identify and catch the suspects quickly.
A cousin describes Zeng as "a scholar" and told the station "I do not want him to be remembered as a victim of a robbery because he's so much more than that."
Friend and coworker Peter Tseng told ABC 7 that Zeng was "a really kind guy" and a talented photographer. It was possible that he was in the process of editing some vacation photos from a recent trip when the laptop was snatched, his cousin says.
Sadly, Zeng's case is reminiscent of another untimely death of a laptop theft victim in Oakland two years ago. In that case, 40-year-old Dave Deporis had his laptop stolen outside a cafe in the Temescal neighborhood. He gave chase to a getaway vehicle and was subsequently dragged, sustaining fatal injuries.
Zeng's homicide marked Oakland's 75th killing of the year.