OAKLAND — Jesus “Chuy” Campos arrived from Mexico with nothing. He came to employ 150 people and own two restaurants. He headed the merchants' association in Oakland’s violent Fruitvale neighborhood, arming himself to defend his businesses.
Oakland has seemingly become numb to violent crime, but the city reacted with shock and dismay after word spread that Chuy Campos was gunned down around 5 a.m. Friday while opening the popular Otaez restaurant on International Boulevard.
“Our condolences go out to the Campos family and to Fruitvale as a whole,” Oakland police Chief Anthony Batts said at a news conference. “Mr. Campos gave back to the community, and we’d like to see the community give back.”
Police said they are looking for two African-American men between the ages of 21 and 35. The suspects fled in a 2000 gray Buick Regal Pontiac four-door with tinted windows and 20-inch rims, according to police.
Police and Oakland Mayor Jean Quan said Campos was the apparent victim of a robbery attempt. Quan said the assailants knew his schedule and appeared to have targeted him.
Reward money for information in the case grew to $30,000 Friday thanks to a contribution from local merchants. The Oakland Police Officer’s Association has started a fund and Quan has asked the governor to pitch in an additional $50,000.
Campos opened Otaez in 1986 and later opened another Mexican restaurant in Alameda. He owned additional property on International Boulevard, including his home a few doors down, and a ranch in Castro Valley, where he often went to escape, his friends said. He was a mainstay at every Fruitvale celebration, including Cinco de Mayo and Day of the Dead. Friends and colleagues called him an anchor of the community and a strong supporter of the police department.
“He could have left the community. He could have moved to the Hills. But he never moved,” said Jose Duenas, the CEO of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Alameda County.
As the president of the Fruitvale Merchants Association, Campos was pivotal to the economic development of the district, colleagues said. In recent months, he had been in contact with police and Quan on behalf of merchants who were concerned about an increase in robberies and lags in police response time. He had walked the neighborhood with Quan and other merchants as recently as Saturday. In the past few months, Capt. Ed Tracy said robberies have decreased in the district by 19 percent.
About 80 business owners showed up to an emergency meeting Wednesday after news of Campos’ death spread, Quan said. Merchants said they’d like authorities to make an example of the men responsible and seek the death penalty.
“Jesus Campos a fighter. He fought for his family. He always fought for his community,” Duenas said. “This is bringing us together.”
Campos, who had a son and daughter and two grandchildren, moved from Mexico with his wife in the 1970s and began working as a foundry worker, said City Council member Ignacio De La Fuente. He liked to save money and was known for always having at least $2 in his pocket. His daughter ran Otaez and his son ran the Alameda restaurant.
Campos employed 150 people, according to Mario Juarez, who owns a real estate business down the street from Campos. Growing up in the district, Juarez said he always looked forward to Saturday mornings, when his mother would buy him breakfast at Otaez as a reward for doing well in school.
“In the Hispanic community, the ultimate goal is to be self-employed,” Juarez said. “He realized those dreams and ambitions.”
Anyone with information is asked to call the Oakland Police Department at 510-238-3821 or Crime Stoppers at 510-777-8572.