OAKLAND (KPIX 5) — Police arrested two people suspected in the theft of a laptop computer from a customer at an Oakland Starbucks who witnesses said died after being injured while chasing the thieves.
Friends and neighbors identify the victim as Shuo Zeng. They said Zeng died on his 34th birthday. Friends said he was kind, smart and a hard worker.
Zeng lived a mile and a half from the Montclair District Starbucks where the laptop theft occurred.
Oakland police said after someone snatched his laptop inside the cafe on New Year Eve, and Zeng then chased after the thief. Witnesses said he fell from the thief’s getaway car and later died.
His friends said they were supposed to go celebrate New Year’s Eve and his birthday that night. Instead of celebrating, his parents are now on their way from China to plan his funeral. They are scheduled to arrive on Saturday. Zeng’s cousin is also traveling from New York to help with the funeral.
His downstairs neighbor, H. Blake, described Zeng as a “really bright guy.”
“It’s just hard, going to be hard on his family,” said Helen, a neighbor who declined to provide a last name.
“I’m shocked. I’m completely shocked,” said Dana Schwartz, a neighbor who lives across from Zeng.
Neigbhors said Zeng moved to his Oakland apartment five months ago. In that short time, neighbors got to know him as responsible, engaging, and friendly.
“We talked, he was happy to be here and enjoying life,” said Blake.
Zeng was a native of China. He attended Kansas State University for his graduate school. He moved to the Bay Area in 2015 to work for Aspera, an IBM company in Emeryville, as a research scientist and engineer, according to his Linkedin profile. A manager at Aspera declined to comment on the story Thursday afternoon.
Friends said he was an avid photographer who loved to travel and hike.
Oakland police arrested two suspects. They may be looking for more people.
“It’s just frustrating,” said Schwartz. She said nobody should die over a laptop.
“He’s a brave young man and wanted his property back,” said Blake.
Laptop thefts at cafes are becoming a common problem in the East Bay. We don’t have the number for Oakland. Berkeley police said that, in the first 11 months of 2019, they responded to 80 laptop and cellphone thefts at cafes. That’s a big increase compared to 2018. They said there were 61 laptop thefts in Berkeley in all of 2018.
Neighbors plan to hold a candlelight vigil to remember Zeng at the Montclair Starbucks on Sunday at 11:30 a.m.
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