OAKLAND -- The man who was shot while on his regular mission with his family to feed the homeless died from his wounds late Wednesday night, police said.
While some may think it was strange for Paris Powell to be out with his family after midnight, giving back to the community was something he had seen other relatives do from the time he was a little boy growing up in Oakland, an aunt said.
Powell, 29, was shot in the head during a drive-by shooting about 12:30 a.m. Wednesday in the 1000 block of 47th Avenue. At the time, he and his pregnant, 35-year-old wife and her 3- and 7-year-old daughters were serving a hot meal to a 61-year-old formerly homeless man they had befriended more than a year ago. Powell was removed from life support at 10:25 p.m. Wednesday.
His wife and the 3-year-old suffered arm wounds. The other child and the older man were not hurt. No arrests have been made, and police do not have a motive.
Distributing food to the homeless was something Powell, known as "Brother John," and his wife had been doing for a while.
His aunt, who asked that her name not be used, said her nephew, whom she helped raise and saw before he died, was doing volunteer work instilled in him since he was a little boy. She said her father would not hesitate to give food and clothing to anyone he saw in need, and she herself volunteered at a local recreation center feeding the homeless.
"That's the way we were raised, to help others," the aunt said, standing outside the Oakland triplex where Powell and his wife and children had lived for three months. "We had the best of everything, but our parents were always helping people.
"He was greatly influenced by his family. Everyone should do that. It's not just take, take, take. You should give, too."
She said her nephew "turned his life over to God a couple years ago and tried to make a difference. This was his way of making a difference."
Besides feeding the homeless, Powell and his wife were also associated with an advocacy foundation for domestic violence victims.
"This is just tragic," the aunt said.
"He didn't bother anyone. He was doing the right thing, and to be taken out like that, it's not right. No one has the right to take another person's life."
She said Powell, who met his wife about three years ago, was looking forward to the birth of his child. He did construction jobs and worked as a hauler, and they used their own funds and got donations to buy the food they cooked for the homeless and others, she said.
His two stepdaughters, whom the aunt watched Wednesday night until their mother came to get them Thursday, had not been told Powell had died. She does not know how they will take it once they learn.
"They were asking me, 'Where's Daddy, how's Mommy?' " She said even though the oldest girl was not shot, she was traumatized by the shooting.
She said the girl was resting on a couch Wednesday night when there was a noise that sounded like gunshots in the area and "she jumped off the couch and hid on the floor."
The aunt said everyone in their family, including a 90-year-old grandmother, are deeply saddened and distressed by what happened. "All I can do is pray. We will pull together as a family."
She said she is angry about what happened and said, "I feel for them, whoever it is. They're troubled."
She and other relatives ask that anyone who has information that might help police find the killer "please speak out. We need more community pulling together to help each other."
William Holloway, the man Powell and his family were giving food to when the shooting happened, said Thursday he wished it had been him instead of Powell who was killed.
"He has a wife and family," Holloway said. "He was a good man, a very good man. I look at it this way. If I get killed, I'm more expendable than him. I value his life more than I do my own. I'd give my life to get his back."
Holloway, who had been homeless for years before getting a caretaker job a few months ago in the area where the shooting happened, said he doubts anyone will continue Powell's work. He said this means the homeless Powell fed will scrounge for food in garbage cans or beg for it.
"I hope someone continues his work but I doubt it. It's too dangerous out here now."
Representatives from the Alameda County Community Food Bank said food can be made available for those who received meals from his family.
"He shared our vision and his loss will be felt by us in the community," said Michael Altfest, communications manager for the food bank.
Altfest said that 275 food agencies in the area work with the food bank, including food pantries and kitchens. He said that those in need of immediate food assistance can call the food bank's help line, 800-870-3663.
Staff writer Roshni Oommen contributed to this report.