S.F. J-Town security guard murdered

Gavin Boston. screenshot

A community mourns Gavin Aaron Boston, a 40-year-old security guard shot dead Jan. 4 outside the Kinokuniya Building under the Webster Street Bridge in San Francisco’s Japantown. The murder has shaken the local community despite the prompt arrest of two minors in relation to the slaying.

Boston, who had started working in Japantown last November, was well-liked by local merchants and fondly remembered by his friends and family.

According to the San Francisco Police Department, Boston was found shot outside the Kinokuniya Building on the 1500 block of Webster Street at around 5 p.m. on Jan. 4. He was declared dead at the scene. A 15-year-old boy was arrested for the murder, and a 14-year-old boy charged with accessory to murder.

According to the San Francisco Chronicle, the 15-year-old boy was arraigned for the murder Jan. 9 in San Francisco juvenile court. His public defender, Rebecca Marcus, said he denied the allegations.

Meanwhile, merchants in San Francisco’s Japantown expressed their concerns over the shooting. Richard Hashimoto, president of the Japantown Merchants Association, said business owners in the ethnic enclave were “concerned and frightened,” but were “staying resilient” in light of the slaying.

While there have been multiple reports of “shots fired” in the vicinity of Japantown in several months, including two cases in December of last year, murder has been relatively rare in the ethnic enclave. The last homicide reported in the Nichi Bei News was the death of Medina Adulkader in 2010 at the St. Francis Square cooperative. Prior to that, Joseph Melcher killed waitress Song Sun Lee at the bar Flow and bystander Kam Yan Li at the Peace Plaza in 2006.

Cpt. Derrick Jackson, head of the Northern Station, which serves Japantown, acknowledged the shooting during a Jan. 10 community meeting. He said community stakeholders in Japantown met with Chief William Scott, Assistant Chief David Lazar, District Attorney Brooke Jenkins, District Five Supervisor Dean Preston, San Francisco Sheriff Paul Miyamoto, his aide Richard Jue and himself Jan. 9.

“We won’t be sharing any of the intimate details about the case, but DA Jenkins did reassure the community that the district attorney’s office was actively prosecuting the case and that more information would come from her public information officer,” Jackson said during the Zoom meeting. “And Northern Station did commit to putting more resources out to keep the community feeling safe.”

During the same meeting Courtney Burris, an assistant district attorney serving as liaison to the community, said the two suspects were charged in the juvenile court. The police have not released their names since they are minors.

“I know that there has been some concern about why not as adults; there (are) currently laws in place that preclude us from elevating juvenile offenders into the adult system,” she said. “They will be handled to the fullest extent of the law within the courts that we’re allowed to prosecute them in.”

A suspect must be at least 16 years old to be tried as an adult in San Francisco.

IN REMEMBRANCE ­— San Francisco Japantown community members created a makeshift memorial for security guard Gavin Boston (R), who was fatally shot outside of the Kinokuniya Building under the Webster Street Bridge Jan. 4.
photo by Tomo Hirai/Nichi Bei News

At the site of Boston’s murder Jan. 6, a window had been boarded up and a bullet hole remained on a second window. Glass fragments littered inside the hallway and the entrance was locked shut with a sign asking visitors to use a separate entrance on Post Street so as not to disturb the memorial for Boston.

“I want to know who put a cigarette there. That’s really sweet of them. It’s really thoughtful,” a man who identified himself as Jae told the Nichi Bei News.

Jae said he had worked as a store protection specialist with Boston at his previous job at Ross Dress for Less.

“It sucks, because in our old job, we were taught not to be a hero,” he said. “But some things are out of control.”

Boston was born Feb. 7, 1982 in Oroville, Calif. His older brother Jon Boston said he had lived in San Francisco on and off for the past 22 years. Up until the 2018 Camp Fire, he had lived with his older sister in Paradise, Calif. He is survived by siblings Lisa Ensley, Carla Seawright, James Boston and Jon Boston, as well as mother Charlotte Boston.

Jon Boston said his brother was “at his prime.” He was an author under the pen name Gavin Boone and had self-published two novels. His brother described him as a considerate and compassionate person who loved to hike, play outdoor sports and had a “hardcore sense of humor.” A flyer for a Jan. 16 memorial service described Boston as “an environmentalist, a progressive thinker with deep compassion and generosity, an author, a gay man who loved watching ‘Drag Race,’ a film and music lover, with a passion for laughter, and finding the beauty in the bleak.”

“This has been a shocking violent reality to be pushed into all of a sudden,” Jon Boston wrote in a text message to the Nichi Bei News. “Help from our friends and strangers does bring us comfort. It is surreal having to do a (GoFundMe) for your lil brother’s murder.”

Although he is not “anti-gun,” the elder brother said he was tired of people across the country asking the question, “Why would a 15 year old be walking around with a gun?” He said the reality is that guns are all too easy to obtain in the United States, alluding to the Jan. 6 shooting in Virginia of an elementary school teacher by a 6-year-old student.

“For several decades now America has adopted the ‘Wild West gun policy.’ I want people to know the guns are here. Many are hidden but they are in your neighborhood,” he wrote. “A 6 year old recently shot his teacher in Virginia. How did he get the gun? America gave it to him.”
In Japantown, merchants in the Kinokuniya Building said Gavin Boston made an impact despite starting only two months ago.

“They are mostly saddened by the unfortunate incident, Gavin was a kind and gentle person who took special interest in Japanese culture,” Hashimoto said by e-mail to the Nichi Bei News. “They have not experienced a security guard like that in a while. They will sincerely miss him.”

Ritsuko Suzuki, owner of Katsura Garden located in the Kinokuniya Mall, said Boston was one of the best security guards she had ever met in her 28 years working at the store.

“He would check in with me and ask if I’m doing OK. When he says he’ll be back in five minutes to check on me, he actually does. I’ve never met a security guard like that,” she said in Japanese to the Nichi Bei News.

Suzuki said she had seen a youth sleeping on a bench outside of Suzu, their neighboring noodle shop. She said Boston had been waiting for around an hour for the boy to wake up before telling him to leave the building. None of the merchants reported Boston or the youth had been arguing prior to the shooting.

“He wasn’t like that. Gavin wasn’t the type of security to yell,” Suzuki said.

The shooting took place before the dinner rush on a weekday as a bomb cyclone was hitting the California coast that evening. Suzuki and other merchants said the mall was relatively quiet that day and few were around to witness what had happened. Initially, they had not realized Boston had even been shot.

“I heard three loud bangs that sounded like gunshots. And at that moment, I wasn’t 100 percent sure what it was,” Naoki Matsuno, an employee of Kissako Tea, told the Nichi Bei News. Matsuno had seen Boston speaking to the youth on the bench, but had gone to the backroom when he heard the shots. He said when the shots went off he looked down the hallway towards the doors, but that it was too dark to see what had happened.

“When I was walking back to get something from storage, I heard the sirens. When there was multiple sirens going on, I realized it probably was a shooting and someone got hurt,” he said.

The Nichi Bei News contacted the Kinokuniya Building representatives, but they declined to comment. The Nichi Bei News was unable to reach the wait staff who had been working that day at Suzu.

Those who would like to support the Boston family with donations to cover funeral and legal costs, may visit https://gofund.me/a239ad4d or mail Jon Boston at P.O. Box 3070, Carmichael, CA 95609.

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