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Ervin Coley III

North Richmond man slain, neighborhood on edge

on March 31, 2011

Ervin Coley III loved to smell the flowers in the North Richmond neighborhood garden where he worked. He said last month that he wanted to make a difference in the community where he had lived all of his 21 years.

Instead, Coley became the first homicide victim in North Richmond this year, gunned down in a torrent of bullets as he walked home Tuesday night.

He was pronounced dead at John Muir Medical Center in Walnut Creek early Wednesday.

“Ervin was a positive guy, he just wanted to do positive work,” said Saleem Bey, a supervisor on the Contra Costa County garden project that Coley had worked on since December. “This was senseless.”

Coley was killed about a block from his home. Bey said the man had been struck by at least eight bullets.

Sheriff’s department spokesman Jimmy Lee said law enforcement has little to go on.

“No motive has been established and there are no suspects at this time,” Lee said.

On Wednesday, less than 24-hours after the 11 p.m. shooting, friends and onlookers wandered around the spot where Coley was killed at the corner of Silver Avenue and Second Street.

A maroon stain on the asphalt was the only remnant of the violence the night before.

Tamika Jones, 25, got out of her car with another woman and walked to the spot. They stared at the blood stain.

“When I heard he got shot, I just thought to myself that he was going to make it,” Jones said. “I never thought he’d be gone.”

Jones added that Coley had survived a gunshot wound about two years ago.

Jones said she believed that Coley was walking west on Silver Avenue from his mother’s house, which is near the Las Deltas Housing Projects, to a house where he lived on Market Street.

Moments later, a woman who identified herself as Coley’s girlfriend of four years walked up Silver Avenue to the corner. She sat on the curb and sobbed for about 10 minutes before walking away.

a woman looks at the blood stains from ervin coley's killing

A mourner looks at the blood stained corner where Coley was killed. (photo by Robert Rogers)

Several residents, who declined to give their names for fear of retaliation, said the shooting was another episode in a long-running feud between antagonists in Central Richmond and North Richmond. They said Coley was probably just in the wrong place at the wrong time – a young man alone in the street.

Friends said that Coley had matured in recent years and was committed to his job as a community gardener.

The neighborhood was abuzz with talk that Coley’s killing may have been prompted by a deadly exchange in San Francisco one day earlier.

Joshua McClain, 23, of Richmond, was shot and killed in San Francisco’s Mid-Market district at around 2 a.m. Monday. Police and sheriffs officials had not made any arrests in McLain or Coley’s death as of Wednesday afternoon.

“Somebody from central (Richmond) gets killed, and now they want to come and get somebody in North (Richmond),” a woman said while standing on Silver Avenue.

Police and sheriffs officials have given no indication that Coley’s death was linked to McClain’s.

Joe McCoy, an agent with Richmond’s Office of Neighborhood Safety, said the next few days may be tense.

“I’m very concerned right now,” McCoy said. “Retaliation and additional violence is what we want to make sure doesn’t happen.”

Bey was direct in his assessment of what happened.

“This was blind retaliation,” Bey said. “There’s a back and forth going on between Central and North Richmond and it’s heating up.”

Coley’s Facebook page, which had 723 “friends” on Wednesday, was flooded with odes to the slain young man. Most of the comments expressed sadness and surprise, with many alluding to Coley’s bright smile and friendly manner. A few expressed more ambiguous sentiments.

“It ain’t ova bra,” one person posted about 12 hours after the shooting.

Coley’s death came just one month after he was featured in an article about local youths working to cultivate neighborhood gardens in North Richmond.

During an interview in early February, Coley was upbeat and talkative, chatting and joking with reporters in-between unloading a truck, turning soil and planting flowers.

“I’ve learned about so many plants, natural remedies and things,” Coley said at the time. “Growing up, I never thought about getting a job in my own neighborhood.”

Coley was working as a paid employee with about a dozen other administrators and local youths on a garden on Third Street, just north of Grove Avenue. The garden is about one block northwest of where Coley was shot.

Bey said Coley was a dependable participant in the program, a county-funded initiative called “Lots of Crops.”

Coley had worked on a garden on Vernon Street in North Richmond on Monday, and near the corner of First Street and Nevin Avenue in Central Richmond on the morning before he was killed.

“He was working at what we call the ‘Peace Garden’ on the day he died,” Bey said.

Anyone with information about Coley’s death is asked to call sheriff’s investigators at (925) 313-2600.

Update: 9:30 am. The San Francisco Chronicle is reporting a second shooting in North Richmond in which one man was wounded and one killed. Richmond Confidential will follow this developing story.

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  1. Andrew Butt on March 31, 2011 at 9:55 am

    Thank you for digging deeper than the other “local media” tend to do when a young man is gunned down on the streets of Richmond/North Richmond. It’s very refreshing to have a media source that scratches below the superficial surface layer and brings to your readers the personal and relevant back-story of a young man with a big heart and a big smile struggling to be a positive transformative force in his community. I don’t know how or when this tragic reality will cease, but I love that you young reporters at RC are going deep into the community and telling the story of people, good and bad and in between, struggling to live a life in a very tough environment. Please continue to dig deeper and bring forward these compelling stories.

    • Robert Rogers on March 31, 2011 at 10:52 am

      Thank you for reading and responding, Andrew. We are committed to doing our best to show the human side of the terrible costs of crime in the community.


  2. […] of Richmond and unincorporated Contra Costa County, was already on high alert Wednesday following Tuesday night’s shooting of Ervin Coley III, 21, who was killed while walking at the corner of Silver Avenue and Second […]

  3. nojustice on April 5, 2011 at 12:21 am

    We become so numb to the pain that there’s no more tears left to be shed. I pray for everyone in Richmond because it’s gonna git real ugly real quick. People know not the repercussions of their actions rather the stature of one’s name for a stripe or what have you. North Richmond has seen it’s fair share of battles anyone that has lived in Richmond for the past 20-30 yrs will tell you that. How can you make amends when all that’s on the menu is Revenge.

  4. CD Elliot on April 5, 2011 at 1:15 pm

    Thank you for putting a human face to this tragic story and not just trying to sensationalize the violence like other so-called news sources do.

  5. […] March 29, Ervin Coley III, 21, a lifelong resident who worked as a gardener in a county-funded local agriculture project, was shot and killed at the […]

  6. Charlene Harris on April 6, 2011 at 2:47 am

    I would like to express my deepest sympaties and condolences to you Resee, the mother, grandmother, Dolorez, auntie, Opal, Charlene uncles and extended family members and friends of Irving Coley.

    “Longtime friend of the family.

    “Peace Unto You”


    Charlene Harris

  7. […] Advertisement Filed Under: Crime, Development, Environment, Featured, Front, Government Tagged: andres soto , ervin coley III , Henry Clark , john gioia , kenneth davis , mitigation fund , North Richmond , saleem bey This entry was written by Robert Rogers, posted on at 2:03 pm, filed under Crime, Development, Environment, Featured, Front, Government and tagged andres soto, ervin coley III, Henry Clark, john gioia, kenneth davis, mitigation fund, North Richmond, saleem bey. Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post. Post a comment or leave a trackback: Trackback URL. More from Richmond Confidential: Richmond radiological lab takes lead after Japanese earthquakeCouncil ditches casino planDespite deadly week, crime down overall in North Richmond Richmond united in Silly ParadeFirefighters douse Richmond Heights blazePlanting seeds of changeRichmond is going sillyViolence flares again in North Richmond, tensions mountNorth Richmond man slain, neighborhood on edge […]

  8. […] three days 5 people were felled by gunfire in North Richmond; two of the victims—21-year-old Ervin Coley III and 22-year-old Jerry Owens—died from their […]

  9. […] the late March shootings that killed 23-year-old Joshua McClain in San Francisco; and 21-year-old Ervin Coley III and 22-year-old Jerry Owens in unincorporated North […]

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