A simple gesture by a 23-year-old Oakland homicide victim and his family is saving the lives of others this holiday season.
Charles Butler Jr., who was shot last week while driving in his North Oakland neighborhood, had requested to be an organ donor.
Through the wishes of his family, an Antioch man has received Butler's liver and another seriously ill man from Arroyo Grande, on the Central Coast, received his pancreas and kidney.
Knowing that others will live because of Butler "makes it a little easier to deal with his death," Butler's sister Valerie Butler said Tuesday. "It lets us know that he's going to be part of us still."
The liver recipient, Daniel Murphy, is recovering at UCSF Medical Center, where the transplant was made on Christmas Day.
"To me it was a miracle," he said from his hospital bed Tuesday. "It was in God's hands."
Luke Barnes, a patient at California Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco, was the recipient of Butler's pancreas and kidney, also on Christmas.
Butler's family knew Murphy from the Church of Vallejo. A supervisor at Kaiser Permanente in Oakland, Murphy said he needed a liver because he suffers from cirrhosis, a chronic liver disease.
It took him a year to get his name placed on a donor list.
It would have taken even longer to find a donor had it not been for the family's intervention.
Butler, a recent graduate of the Merchant Marine Academy who was looking forward to his first assignment, was shot Thursday as he drove in the area of 46th and West streets. His car crashed just a few doors away from where he was living with his family.
The car briefly caught fire but was extinguished by police officers, who pulled Butler from the vehicle. He was taken off life support Friday.
Investigators are not saying what they think the motive was for the killing, and they have made no arrests. But his sister said that two days before the shooting, two men at a local market tried to start a confrontation with Butler.
He left the store and got into his car. The men followed him and tried to confront Butler outside his home.
Butler ignored them. But they were waiting for him outside the store the next day and opened fire, Valerie Butler said.
"This is just malicious and petty," she said.
Butler attended Far West High School in Oakland and the Berkeley Adult School.
He enrolled in the Merchant Marine training program at the Praise Fellowship Bible Church in Richmond, where he was an original member, Pastor William Coleman said.
Butler had received a job offer but wanted to wait for a longer assignment.
He had also applied for a position with the Military Sea Lift Command in Virginia.
At the news of his death and organ donation, sympathy and offers of help from strangers poured in to the family.
"It was just beautiful," Valerie Butler said.
Charles Butler Jr. is survived by his father, Charles Butler Sr.; mother, Eldonia Valrey; and three sisters, Valerie Butler, Monique Randolph and Ann Butler.
Memorial services for Charles Butler Jr. will be held 11 a.m. Friday at the Center of Hope Community Church, 8411 MacArthur Ave., Oakland