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San Francisco’s Richmond District mourns shopkeeper killed in beating

A woman places flowers in front of the Richmond Market on Thursday night in honor of Yohannes "John" Tewolde, who was slain by a suspected thief on Aug. 24, 2023. | Source: Joel Umanzor/The Standard

Dozens of Outer Richmond residents attended a vigil for a San Francisco shopkeeper who was brutally assaulted with a baseball bat last week while confronting a suspected thief and died from his injuries.

Family and community members gathered in front of the Richmond Market at the corner of 41st Avenue and Balboa Street to remember the life of 60-year-old Yohannes “John” Tewolde and his place in the community.

“Whether it was a late-night snack or that last beer or whatever, he was a part of this neighborhood,” said Randy Simmons, a 20-year resident of the Outer Richmond. “You never know how you affect people just by sending out good vibes.”

Yohannes "John" Tewolde's family members sit in front of the crowd at Thursday's vigil to honor the slain shopkeeper. | Source: Joel Umanzor/The Standard

Simmons considered Tewolde a neighborhood fixture who had touched everyone at the vigil, whether he had had a personal relationship with them or not.

“This is love,” Simmons said. “This is a good example. He’s living in all of us.”

Tewolde was hospitalized after the attack and died around 1 p.m. Tuesday, according to his eldest daughter, Meron Tewolde.

“My dad was just trying to do the right thing," she said. "My dad stood up in front of him; the guy pushed my dad and smashed his head with a baseball bat.”

Homicide investigators are handling the case, and no arrests have been made, according to the police.

Rick Umoff, an Outer Richmond resident who reported the attack on NextDoor and organized a GoFundMe campaign for Tewolde, said the neighborhood is still looking for closure in light of the suspect in the incident still being at large.

“I feel like our battle is not over: We still need to find this person,” Umoff said. “He’s still out there, and we have to push our politicians. We have to do something. I don’t feel rested.”

Outer Richmond residents gather in front of the Richmond Market on Thursday night to honor the life of Yohannes "John" Tewolde, who was slain at the location on Aug. 24, 2023. | Source: Joel Umanzor/The Standard

Story after story, Tewolde's impact on the community was shared by residents who connected with him and the store’s black cat, Nancy.

Kyle Ortega, a neighborhood resident, said Tewolde changed his outlook on life after he had a bout of depression and had finally mustered the energy to get out of his bed and walk to the corner store to buy a candy bar.

“I came up here, and he let me chill for 45 minutes, petting Nancy and talking about life,” Ortega said. “I walked out of that store, walked all the way and had a completely changed mindset about what I am doing, where I am going and how to interact with people. Every single one of us can wear our hearts on our sleeves every single day, and that’s all I want to do for the rest of my life.”

Funeral services for Tewolde will be Sept. 8, according to the family.