OAKLAND — Josue Lopez-Gil was 13. He had five hamsters, cared for wounded animals and set out bowls of milk for a neighborhood cat. He played soccer, cracked jokes and gave his older sisters fashion tips.
On Monday morning, he told his 19-year-old sister, Yohaira Gil, that she should wear one pink shoe and one white shoe to work — which she did. That was their last conversation.
Josue was shot to death just before 10 p.m. Monday in East Oakland. The shooting suspect, 13, was a classmate at Roots International, a small, public middle school on the Havenscourt campus.
The boys have become the city's youngest homicide victim and the youngest suspect in 2009.
"I saw my son for the last time on the ground," said Josue's father, Rafael Lopez, who described racing to the scene after receiving a frantic call from his son's friend. "Thirteen years old. It's too young."
On Tuesday, a 13-year-old boy was arrested on suspicion of murder, though he has not been formally charged. Police said the suspect knew Josue and admitted his involvement in the shooting.
Investigators say the shooting may have been prompted by a dispute over a girl but also had gang overtones. Sgt. John Parkinson said the suspect is an associate of a street gang.
On Monday night, Josue was with two other young people in the 1800 block of 55th Avenue when they encountered the 13-year-old boy and the boy's 17-year-old brother, Parkinson said. The younger brother reportedly said something disparaging about a girl Josue knew; during the ensuing confrontation, he apparently shot Josue, according to Parkinson, who is investigating the case with Sgt. Caesar Basa.
No one else was injured.
Josue was able to run a few blocks before collapsing. He was pronounced dead at the scene.
Yohaira said she learned of the tragedy from one of her brother's friends. "He was crying and telling me, 'He's alive!'"" she recalled. "He was telling me, 'Pick him up! He's alive!'""
Based on witness information, police arrested the two brothers a short time later at their home; the older brother was released Tuesday, pending further investigation.
Some of Josue's family members said they began worrying about the boy's safety after he mentioned the problems he was having with some of his classmates. They said he recently was attacked by a large group of boys and that at least one had threatened to kill him. "He had this fear in his eyes," Yohaira said.
Josue's mother, Maria, said he had a reputation as a troublemaker at Roots, and she felt his concerns weren't taken seriously enough. She said he had planned to attend another school in the fall.
Oakland school district spokesman Troy Flint said the Roots staff paid extra attention to Josue, an at-risk student who frequently was out of school. Flint said a physical education teacher "took him under her wing" and that a counselor from Elev8, an intergovernmental initiative at five Oakland middle schools, met with the family regularly.
The killing was Oakland's 42nd homicide of the year. Last year at this time there were 54 homicides in the city.