The significance of Friday, June 12th may have been lost on most of us. This was the day that Emeryville resident Aya Nakano’s life was senselessly taken from him two years ago, barely an hour from the day he would have turned 23. Aya’s mother Maria and her partner Jean drove Saturday from the Peninsula where they now live, to pay respect to Aya who would have been celebrating his 25th birthday. In what will more than likely be an annual pilgrimage, Maria & Jean came to the site of his killing on the corner of Market & Stanford to honor Aya with flowers and other mementos.
Unfortunately, little new information is known about the case. “I’m dreadfully afraid he will become a statistic” noted his Mother Maria whom we met over coffee. “He’ll be just another cold case as far as OPD is concerned.”
Nakano was returning home from playing pick-up basketball at UC Berkeley that Wednesday June 12th, 2013 at 10:57 p.m. Nakano was driving westbound on Stanford Avenue when a car struck his Jeep Cherokee from behind at the Market Street intersection. Nakano then turned southbound onto Market and got out of his car to assess the damage and exchange information. One of the two men in the vehicle then shot Nakano, and he died at the scene. The vehicle fled southbound on Market, which was thought to be the below late-model four-door silver sedan captured by a surveillance camera. Police are also seeking an unidentified woman who may have pulled up at the scene but quickly left. Getting this woman to step forward with whatever information she has could help move the case forward.
The last two years have been admittedly tough for Maria, but she’s trying to move on while still carrying on Aya’s fight. There are “triggers” everywhere that remind Maria of Aya and one of the reasons they needed to detach themselves from the area. In addition to raising money for the reward fund, Maria continues to work to honor his life and preserve his memory. One of Aya’s former classmates helped established an “Aya Nakano Memorial fund” scholarship at Sacred Heart Prep where he attended and some other friends are working on a memorial bench on the campus of his alma mater, The University of Oregon.
“I feel him. I feel his love through is friends, through their gift of remembrance. Every time I’m at my lowest point, I’ll get a text message from one of Aya’s friends saying ‘I’m thinking about you today’. Aya loved his friends so much, they were the siblings he never had. They have a very deep attachment and connection to one another. That’s why whenever someone tries to call me or send me a letter, I just feel grateful. I feel like that’s coming from Aya”.
Aya’s mother Maria Climaco wears a pendant with Aya’s photo in it and yellow & blue cause bracelets embossed with his name to recognize his love of Warriors Basketball.
The reward for information leading to the conviction of Aya’s killers has surpassed $100,000 to $125,000 and Maria is targeting $200,000. The amount was achieved in true grass-roots fashion including the family’s personal savings, small fundraising events held by Aya’s friends and even an Anonymous donor whom ponied up $10,000. Former Councilmember Kurt Brinkman championed Aya’s cause while in council by not only making a contribution of his own, but by introducing an initiative for the city to pledge $10,000. The money, only paid in the event of a conviction, would come from the city’s General Fund.