OAKLAND -- Judy Salamon was blocks from her East Oakland home when she pulled her Subaru Outback up to a scene that must have infuriated her: two men committing a street crime.

The 66-year-old beloved pet sitter, known equally for her love of animals and trying to clean up crime-ridden streets, made what would be a fatal decision.

She pulled out her cellphone and began filming. She was shot dead minutes later.

The July 24, 2013, daytime killing stunned residents of Maxwell Park, but some relief returned to the neighborhood of tidy, narrow streets on Thursday when police announced the arrests of the two suspects. They also revealed, for the first time, the circumstances of her death, including her decision to film the men who allegedly killed her.

Judy Salamon
Judy Salamon

"I'm just happy they've taken another sociopath with a gun off the streets," said 56-year-old Eric Sahlin, a 22-year friend to Salamon. "She wasn't going out looking for trouble. She was simply going home."

Mario Floyd, 21, of Oakland and Stephon Lee, 22, of Richmond have been arrested and charged Thursday with murder with a special circumstance of robbery, police said. Lee is serving time at San Quentin State Prison on unrelated charges, though it's unclear how long he's been in custody. Floyd has a prior conviction for carrying a loaded firearm, according to court records and authorities.

The pair, who are expected to be arraigned next week, are well-known to Oakland police and are also known to have affiliations with an East Oakland neighborhood gang, said Sgt. Mike Gantt, the lead investigator.


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After filming the men, Gantt said Salamon followed them to the 2400 block of Fern Street, three blocks away from her home. Floyd allegedly threw a trash can at Salamon's car, then Lee shot her, police said. Her cellphone was also taken. Wounded once, Salamon's car rolled down Fern and hit another car. She died at the scene.

Police would not say what type of crime Salamon witnessed or whether they recovered her cellphone in the investigation. Gantt, a veteran homicide investigator, called the case one of the toughest in his career because witnesses weren't coming forward in the brazen, daytime crime. He credited Officer Timothy De La Vega with tracking down a key witness, which prompted more people to come forward.

Salamon was born after World War II to Holocaust survivors and spent her early years in Canada before moving to Maxwell Park 20 years ago, according to her friend Agnes Meinhard. An accomplished pianist and dancer, she was well-educated and fluent in five languages.

But her true passion was caring for animals, friends said.

In the months before her death, she became active in neighborhood watch groups in Maxwell Park. Residents there describe the East Oakland neighborhood as a sanctuary from violence that often erupts just blocks away.

"She was a good pillar of the community," said Sahlin, who lives in Alameda. "She really cared about other people."

Officials described Salamon as "brave," but police warned residents not to cross the line from vigilant to vigilante.

"She lost her life, but at the same time, I consider it an act of bravery on her part," said East Oakland Councilman Noel Gallo, the chair of the Public Safety Committee who attended Salamon's vigil last year. "Most of us in Oakland need to stand up and not allow that behavior."

Joel Denney, a longtime friend and neighbor, praised the work of Oakland police investigators but said the reality that Salamon is gone has not sunk in, and perhaps never will.

"It still feels to me that she's on extended vacation in Toronto, where she is originally from," Denney said Thursday. "There's this feeling of unreality and denial about it that's so hard to shake. It's still unreal."

Staff writer Harry Harris contributed to this report. David DeBolt covers breaking news. Contact him in Richmond at 510-262-2728. Follow him at Twitter.com/daviddebolt.