OAKLAND -- A neighborhood grieved for one of its own Wednesday as hundreds gathered for the funeral of slain Fruitvale merchant Jesus "Chuy" Campos.
Mariachis, a brass band and Aztec dancers valiantly tried to lift the spirits of mourners who paraded through a downpour along International Boulevard and crowded St. Elizabeth Church beyond its capacity.
The crowd, estimated at more than 1,000 people, reflected the lives touched by the 58-year-old restaurateur whose business acumen and dedication to community affairs made him a well-liked figure in the Fruitvale district and beyond.
Soaked by heavy rains, pallbearers carried his coffin from his house to the steps of St. Elizabeth and stopped briefly at his restaurant, Otaez Mexicatessen. Campos was shot and killed in an apparent robbery attempt at the restaurant early Friday.
Trumpeters, guitarists and accordionists, hoping to protect their instruments from the rain as they followed the funeral procession, dashed from one storefront entrance to another and ducked under a gas station overhang, playing upbeat music wherever they took shelter. The sun emerged and the rain stopped as the procession turned the corner toward the church. Volunteers poured steaming cups of coffee and honey-flavored tea.
"Look at all the people who are here. Look," said his daughter, Darlene, using a eulogy to express thanks to a crowd that included local mayors, police officers, fellow merchants and hundreds
Born Dec. 5, 1952, in the Mexican state of Jalisco, Campos migrated to Oakland about four decades ago with dreams of a better life. They were dreams he was able to realize as an entrepreneur, friends said. He and his wife, Socorro, used their savings to buy the Otaez Mexicatessen in the mid-1980s. Their business grew as the family expanded the Otaez name to Alameda in 2006 and the Oakland International Airport last year. Campos also ran a check-cashing and money services business adjacent to the Fruitvale restaurant.
"He was hardworking," said Monsignor Antonio Valdivia, who met Campos when the young immigrant was a cook at Fruitvale's Chichen restaurant in the 1970s. "And he was always so generous with his time."
Gloria Flores Garcia remembered Campos as a dedicated family man and skilled cook at another Mexican restaurant, Alameda's Mexicali Rose, where they both worked in the 1980s.
"He was light in spirit. He was fast," she said. "The waitresses just called out the orders, and he'd put those orders in his mind."
Mary Nevarez, a former principal at St. Bernard School, remembered when Campos would carry Otaez food to the school so that his daughter and son, who were students there, could have a fresh lunch.
"They're really taking it hard," she said of the family. "This was just really uncalled for."
As they shared fond memories of the beloved restaurateur, many mourners also expressed deep frustration about the unsolved slaying. Campos had voiced complaints to city leaders about the neighborhood's crime problems.
"This city, for the last four years, with the last mayor, nobody paid attention to this area," said Fruitvale businessman Hugo Guerrero, a friend of Campos. "These people are very upset. The Spanish community is very upset."
Police are investigating whether Campos' assailants targeted him and if they might have known his daily routine. Campos would typically wake up before sunrise and walk a few doors down to the restaurant to unlock its doors and prepare for breakfast service. Police said he was shot about 5:30 a.m. Friday at the service entrance to the building.
Fruitvale merchants, Oakland police and Crime Stoppers of Oakland are offering as much as $32,000 in reward money for information leading to the gunman's arrest. Anyone with information may call police at 510-238-3821 or Crime Stoppers at 510-777-8572 or 510-777-3211.