OAKLAND -- Robert Wollo fled the violence of civil war in his native Liberia, and after years of living in a Ghana refugee camp he immigrated in 2007 to what he thought would be a safer, more peaceful life in the United States.
But the 75-year-old pastor and caregiver for the severely developmentally disabled could not escape the violence of Oakland.
Wollo, who lived on 66th Avenue, was killed the night of Sept. 23 while driving home from work. His car was broadsided at Church Street and Bancroft Avenue in East Oakland by an SUV occupied by two 17-year-old suspected gang members fleeing the scene of a shooting. The youths had shot at a house on 82nd Avenue, hitting the home and a parked vehicle but injuring no one. They have each been charged with vehicular manslaughter, shooting into an occupied dwelling, shooting into a vehicle and other counts, authorities said. The suspects have not been charged as adults.
That the boys have been charged has provided little solace to Wollo's family, said his son, Archiebald Wollo, 25, who came to Oakland with his father and eight brothers and sisters.
"We are trying to deal with it as best as we possibly can," said the son, a psychology student at an Alameda college who also is a pastor. "Even now I don't know what to make of it. It's like a dream, but it is reality. To flee the violence of home and die here the way he did is unbelievable.
"I didn't really know how to process it at first," the son said. "My dad was coming from work expecting to get home safely. He was just a few blocks from his home. As a family we are just trying to deal with it."
He is more frustrated than angry.
"Being angry I don't think would make a difference," Archiebald Wollo added. "What is frustrating is 17-year-olds getting involved in conduct against society."
The son said he and his mother, father and siblings left Liberia during the West African country's bloody civil war -- an uncle was among the 250,000 killed in the late 1990s and early 2000s -- and first went to the Ivory Coast. After two years there the family moved to a refugee camp in Ghana, spending four years there before coming to the United States and eventually settling in Oakland. His mother decided not to come with them and chose to go back to Liberia to take care of her sisters. She is devastated by her husband's death, he said.
His son said his father was a "loving dad, very supportive, a very strong person." Funeral services will be held 10 a.m. Oct. 19 at Chapel of the Chimes, 32992 Mission Blvd., in Hayward.
"He loved supporting his family," Archiebald Wollo said. "He also has 10 grandchildren. He once told me, 'The greatest asset I have on earth are my children.' He would do everything for his children. Even with our large family, he shared his love equally. We will not forget the memories of our dad."
He said his father was in forestry development in Liberia but enjoyed his work with the disabled: "That tells a lot about him at his age. He was people-oriented. He loved preaching, teaching God's word. That fulfilled him, helping people out."
The Rev. Clinton Bobray, of New Beginning International Ministries in East Oakland where Robert Wollo was assistant pastor, said his longtime friend was a big part of the church.
"He was a great man, very humble, a people person," he said. "He would never say no to anything -- whether it was transporting people to church, doing street ministry or visiting people in hospital. He had a soothing effect on people. He was very loved. We are grieving heavily."
Wardell Jackson, owner and administrator at Jackson House in San Leandro where Wollo had worked since April 2012, said he was "very good" with the six severely mentally disabled men who lived there who required daily assistance in eating, getting dressed and even brushing their teeth, among other things.
"He had an empathy for people with disabilities," Jackson said. "He made sure they got what they needed. It was very rewarding for him."
Jackson said the residents really have no way to physically or verbally express their feelings but he could tell by a change in their behavior patterns since Wollo's death that "they are missing him."