Remembering Christian Sheppard

Christian and his youngest daughter Haylee. Photo: Niya Richardson
Christian and his youngest daughter Haylee, who is 5 months old. Photo: Niya Richardson

More than 100 friends and family members attended a candlelight vigil Wednesday night for a Berkeley father of two who was killed Tuesday evening in South Berkeley.

Christian Sheppard, 24, was fatally shot in the 1600 block of Russell Street. He will be deeply missed by his community.

As we mourn Christian’s death, those who knew him have been taking time to reflect on all he taught us over the years. He was a young man who was trying to make the best of his situation while at the same time learning from his mistakes. This is a hard time for so many people because Christian was a friend, a companion and an ally to almost everyone he knew.

Christian was known for his ability to relate to almost anyone. He was well-rounded and a man of many talents and passions. Through those passions and talents he was able to establish lifelong friendships.

As a child he loved anything that was related to sports, music and family, and as he went through life he used that love to guide him through his decision making.

Christian loved sports. He played Pop Warner football for the Berkeley Cougars and played basketball in middle school for the Longfellow Tigers.

As a student at Berkeley High, Christian played football all four years and was a standout on both the offensive and defensive lines.

Christian Sheppard #58 senior year on Berkeley High Varsity team. 2nd row from the bottom, 4th player from the left
Christian, #58, in his senior year on the Berkeley High varsity football team (second row from the bottom, fourth player from the left).

Christian was often considered undersized for the position, but his strength and courage allowed him to play like he was much bigger.

Christian had a strong impact on his teammates.

“One of the first days I met Christian, he told me to remain loyal and to always have my friends’ backs,” said Keenan Coogler, who played three years with Christian at Berkeley High before graduating in 2010. “He pretty much lived, off the field, the same way he did on the field, and I’ll never forget all the hard work we put in together.”

Christian also succeeded in the classroom. He earned a scholarship through the African American Studies Department at Berkeley High. This scholarship would take him to Cal State University Northridge, in Los Angeles, which he attended with several of his classmates from Berkeley High after graduating in 2009.

Chris Sheppard at graduation. Photo: Amna Asghar
Chris Sheppard at graduation. Photo: Amna Asghar

Christian was chosen by his classmates to give a speech at graduation that encouraged fellow students to celebrate their successes, and wished them well in their pursuits.

Ronni Pelley attended middle school, high school and college with Christian.

Said Pelley this week: “Christian was extremely smart, hardworking and gifted. Christian loved the community of South Berkeley and the love was reciprocated.”

That same community has come together this week to pay their respects to Christian and reminisce about the many good times they spent with him. In attendance were classmates, family and other members of the community, many of whom have been devastated by his untimely death.

Christian’s mother, Wanda Hunter, told KTVU earlier this week that she has made peace with the tragic loss. She said she has forgiven the man arrested in connection with the fatal shooting, 24-year-old Anthony Durant, who had known Christian since childhood.

Christian Sheppard memorial. Photo: Delency Parham
Photo: Delency Parham

“Christian is at home,” she told KTVU. “Christian is OK. He’s out of danger. He won’t have no more pain, no more worries. He’s free.”

Christian was a father to two beautiful girls, Lyric, who is 5 years old, and Haylee, who is 5 months old. Christian’s daughters were the centerpiece of his short life and it was his goal to be a positive force in their lives. Since the birth of his daughters, people had began to notice a change in Christian, a change for the better. Childhood friend and classmate Jhamaria McCray was one of those people.

“I’ve known him since I was 11, so I actually got to watch him grow into a man,” said McCray. “He didn’t deserve to die … and now his daughters will no longer have their father to look up to. The worst part about that is that his daughters had become his single reason to do better in life.”

The bond between Christian and his daughters was unbreakable. He could often be seen in Berkeley with both of his daughters riding in his backseat. He was someone who never shied away from responsibility, who loved others much more than he loved himself.

Dr. James A. Long Jr., pastor of True Faith Baptist Church in Oakland, identified Christian as a deacon in that church, and said he had known the young man since childhood. Recently, Christian had been working as a deliveryman for a bread company to help support his family.

Christian and his oldest daughter Lyric
Christian and his oldest daughter Lyric. Photo: Christian Sheppard

As we remember Christian it is important that we focus on the good times and the moments when he graced us with his huge presence. This is a tough time for the community of Berkeley and many people have been hurt by this loss.

Christian was a cherished person whose big personality and kind actions will be deeply missed. With him he takes feelings and moments that only he could provide for his friends and family, yet he leaves many memories for us to remember him by.

To the many that lost a friend, brother or lover, remember that you’ve gained an angel.

Christian is survived by his mother, Wanda Hunter, as well as three older brothers and a sister. Services have not been announced, but his family is raising money for funeral costs and to help support his daughters.

Berkeleyside intern Delency Parham was a lifelong friend of Christian Sheppard, and played football alongside him when they were students together at Berkeley High School. Parham shared this reflection on the loss of his friend.

Berkeleyside is always honored to publish, at no charge, obituaries of members of the Berkeley community. Please email text and photo(s) to editors@berkeleyside.com.