Nearly two weeks after someone broke into Dinesh Kumar’s house and shot him and his mother, Kumar still stirs with night terrors. He wakes with a fright, fearing someone is lurking around his family while they sleep. Nothing is out of place, but he gets up to reassure himself.
“Last night I wake up at 4 … all of a sudden it seems like somebody’s in the house,” Kumar said Wednesday. “I heard my son screaming like in sleep. … He must also be dreaming.”
The invasion, which left Kumar’s mother, 67-year-old Sushila Prasad, dead, took place Aug. 26 in the North and East neighborhood. Police have held a suspect, 21-year-old parolee Gerardo Canon Jr., since then, but Canon has not yet been charged with the crime.
Kumar, 46, is originally from Fiji. He worked as a custodian at Berkeley High School, but has not yet returned to work and for now uses a walker to get around.
The intruder shot him at least twice in the left side of his torso, once in his right hip, and once in his lower right torso, Kumar said. He’s not sure how many times he was shot, he said, “The doctors say four or five; some say four, some five.”
A long line of stitches on the right side of his abdomen evidences the work surgeons performed to repair his kidney. But physical damage isn’t all that’s difficult for Kumar and his family, which also must deal with the emotional burden of Prasad’s death.
“She did a lot for us,” Kumar said. “I’m never going to forget her any time.”
Kumar said that Prasad had come from Fiji to visit him and his family, as she had done in the past. He described his mother as a hard worker, a person who, regardless of her age, refused to sit still when there was labor to be done, “never mind how much we stop her.”
Prasad raised Kumar on a vegetable farm near Ba, Fiji, and said that from an early age she showed her resilient work ethic.
“She worked very hard in the farm,” he said. “Early mornings she’d go milk the cow, make our breakfast, prepare us for school.”
In the hours before Kumar’s family began their own morning ritual, the intruder broke in.
Saroj Devi, Kumar’s wife, remembers the time exactly.
“I saw the time … it was 3:22 a.m.,” she said. “I was just laying in bed and I turned and I could feel somebody was walking in the house.”
Devi said she looked up and she saw a figure turning back from their bedroom, heading toward the kitchen.
“I was shaking,” she said. “I was in shock.”
She turned to wake her husband, but he suggested it was his mother, who Kumar said occasionally woke early. Devi, unconvinced, sat still. For a brief period of time, neither Devi nor Kumar moved, until Kumar jumped out of bed and dashed out of the bedroom.
“I don’t know what happened in my mind,” he said. “I was thinking that I’m going to ask my mother if she needs something, but I don’t know there is a stranger in there.”
As he left the bedroom, the intruder shined a flashlight in Kumar’s eyes, then began punching him and at one point pistol-whipping him across the head.
“He didn’t even say a word to me,” he said.
It was then that the first shot rang out.
“He fired one shot at the same time,” Kumar said. “It’s like something warm in my body.”
Kumar kept trying to stave off the intruder by grabbing a kitchen chair, but as the struggle continued and shots rang the damage was done.
“I don’t know when my mom came out from the other room where my daughter was sleeping,” he said. “My daughter was calling… ‘Grandma,’ then I said, ‘What happened to Grandma?’
“That’s the time only I know that my mom got shot.”
Devi said she did not see the intruder leave, but went outside and saw someone getting into a car up the street.
Richmond Police officers later found Canon Jr. near the scene.
“He was seated in a vehicle up the street,” Det. Nicole Abetkov said. “Then he started the car and tried to leave.”
“That’s when they got him.”
Canon Jr. has been held for a parole violation for nearly two weeks, and Abetkov said police are waiting for forensics tests to come back from Los Angeles before moving forward with the case.
While many in the community await justice, Kumar and his family also await normalcy.
Devi and Kumar said they wait for a time when they can prepare their children’s breakfasts and say their Hindu prayers each day without worrying about their safety. Devi and Kumar, who came to America for their children’s future, said they are now uncertain about whether to stay, whether to move and what they will do next.
A bank account for Kumar and his family has been set up at Mechanics Bank under “The Kumar Family Benefit” to help with medical bills associated with the shooting.