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04.04.12

What Made One Goh, the Oikos University Shooter, Snap?

One Goh, stormed an Oakland school in search of an official as his target. Instead, he executed seven students against a wall. Dara Kerr on the rampage that shocked Oikos University.

Sitting toward the back of a packed church in Oakland on Tuesday evening, James Mueller hung his head and gently wept. He was one in a crowd of hundreds that gathered to honor the seven people murdered during the Oikos University tragedy on Monday.

“I imagine there’s a lot of anger right now,” Mueller said. “I’m not angry, I’m just hurt because we lost a loved one.”

Grace Kim was the loved one he was speaking about—a 23-year-old from Union City, Calif., who was gunned down in one of the university’s classrooms. Kim was the daughter of Mueller’s close family friend and he had known her for years.

About 500 family, friends, and community members filed into Allen Temple Baptist Church for the memorial service on Tuesday, as organ music softly played and church volunteers passed out tissues. People were baring flowers, clutching teddy bears, hugging each other, and sobbing.

“On this solemn occasion we come sharing our tears and our grief,” Allen Temple’s senior pastor, Dr. J.A. Smith Jr., said during an opening prayer at the memorial service. “We come, oh God, with questions we are incapable of answering.”

It was just one day earlier that an angry gunman police have identified as 43-year-old One Goh stormed Oikos University. During this killing spree, he lined several students against a wall, shot them dead, and then marched throughout the school to hunt down other victims.

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Oakland Police crime-scene investigators at Oikos University after the gunman, One Goh (inset), opened fire inside the university in Oakland, April 2, 2012 (Peter DaSilva, EPA / Landov; inset: Courtesy of Alameda County Sheriff's Department)
Oikos University’s student body is majority Korean, but Goh’s victims came from several different countries, including Nigeria, Tibet, India, Guyana, Korea, and the Philippines.

“He then went through the entire building systematically and randomly shooting victims,” Oakland Police Chief Howard Jordan said during a Tuesday press conference at Oikos. “As a result of his actions, he shot seven people, killed them, and three people were wounded.”

Oikos University is a small, nondescript one-story brick building located in an office-park neighborhood near the Oakland airport. It has about 100 students and is accredited to give degrees in nursing, theology, and music.

The school also has a strong Christian slant. Its president, Dr. Jongin Kim, wrote a message on its website that says, “At Oikos University, students are given the opportunity to obtain a Christian education that is based on solid Christian doctrine and ideology. Our main goal is to foster spiritual Christian leaders who abide by God’s intentions and to expand God’s nation through them.”

Oikos University’s student body is majority Korean, but Goh’s victims came from several different countries, including Nigeria, Tibet, India, Guyana, Korea, and the Philippines. Police identified the seven victims on Tuesday—six women and one man whose ages range from 21 to 40.

Goh is a former nursing student at Oikos University and police say that he was kicked out for behavioral issues a few months ago. He has no known criminal history but was plagued by debt, including federal tax liens, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. Police say that he planned his rampage for weeks, but his intended target wasn’t at the University on Monday.

“We know that he came here with the intent of finding an administrator,” Jordan said in the press conference. “We do know he was upset at administrators at the school. We do know he was upset with several students here because of the way he was treated when he was enrolled here.” It’s still unclear who Goh is blaming for this treatment and what it entailed.

After the killing spree as Goh fled the crime scene, he reportedly stole the keys of a car from one of his victims and drove to the nearby city of Alameda where he went into a Safeway grocery store and turned himself in by confessing to a clerk. Police picked him up there and brought him into custody.

“The suspect has been cooperative in interviews with investigators up to the point where he discarded the firearm,” Oakland Police Department spokesperson Officer Johanna Watson said in a Tuesday press conference. Police believe Goh used a semi-automatic pistol, which he bought legally, and he reloaded it at least once during his rampage based on the number of shell casings found at the crime scene. The gun has yet to be recovered.

Investigators have been combing an Oakland shoreline park trying to find the weapon in the murky shallow water. Using various leads, police believe they located a likely place where Goh may have ditched the gun. With the help of the San Francisco Police Department and the U.S. Coast Guard, police are using a sonar robot to scour the bottom of the waterway. “Investigators are determined to find this gun,” Watson said. “We know that the weapon is somewhere in our community.”

As people continued to weep during the memorial service at Allen Temple Baptist Church Tuesday evening, Oakland Mayor Jean Quan spoke to the crowd. “This is America,” she said, “where you can find a gun easier than you can find mental health counseling.” She then encouraged people to treat each other kindly and keep in mind the “dreams of those young immigrants.”

The service ended with closing remarks from Kyung Chan Kim, a pastor at the Richmond Korean Baptist Church and head of the Northern California Korean Christian Association. “Yesterday we are all shocked … we didn’t know what to do,” he said. “But we found hope tonight. Yes, this is a time of grief and sorrow and sadness. But also this is a time of healing and this is a time of oneness.”

Goh is facing seven counts of murder, three counts of attempted murder, carjacking, and kidnapping. His arraignment is planned for today, and if he is charged with multiple murders he could face the death penalty or life in prison without parole.