A homeless woman who was a fixture of Emeryville and West Oakland passed away from her injuries sustained from an assault back on July 6th. Hayok Kay was reportedly removed from life support at Highland Hospital on August 18th after over a month in a comatose state from severe brain injuries. The beating occurred in front of the CVS Pharmacy where Kay often resided.
Arrested in the case was 37-year-old Christopher Flores of Oakland who was initially released on bail but was returned to custody after the felony assault charge was upgraded to homicide according to EPD Sergeant Fred Dauer. It was Emeryville’s first homicide [Correction] since Demaria Corgile was shot and killed on 65th Street in December of 2012. Kay’s case now resides with the Alameda County District Attorney.
The 62-year-old Kay was born in Seoul, Korea in 1953 and had lived in California since 1969. According to this 2013 East Bay Express article, “Miss Kay” as she was affectionately referred to, came from a prominent Korean-American family in San Francisco and was an accomplished drummer. In addition to playing with several all girl bands in the 80’s S.F. punk scene, she was the original drummer of the punk-polka band Polkacide.
Photo: East Bay Express
Kay was profiled alongside fellow West Oakland recyclers Landon, Roslin & Jason in a 2012 documentary titled Dogtown Redemption by filmmaker Amir Soltani. The film takes a compassionate look at their plight and examines Oakland’s failing socioeconomic policies. Through their stories, Soltani traces the trials and triumphs of living on the streets and the daily pilgrimage to Alliance Metals, a recycling center on Peralta Street, to redeem their bounty for enough cash to survive on. Dogtown Redemption was funded through a Kickstarter campaign and even received Sundance Film Festival consideration.
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Kay’s longtime partner Fred Griffing, whom she lived with in their vehicle, died from liver and kidney failure leaving her to fend for herself. Her segment tracks her journey from the grief of losing him, to a stint in a shelter, then back to the streets and to newfound companionship. “Miss Kay’s grief, the tears of an abandoned and betrayed girl, begin to burn and singe their way through her numb, wet and tired spirit. Cans and bottles, converted into cheap alcohol sold by Oakland’s Yemeni grocers, can no longer stitch her day together.” Kay suffered from mental health issues that kept her on the streets according to this L.A. Times article.
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Kay was profiled in PBS’s Independent Lens series:
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