Today (Friday) when loved ones attend a memorial for 19-year-old Berkeley High graduate Meleia Willis-Starbuck, one of her best friends will be facing arraignment in connection to her murder.
Chistopher Wilson, a 20-year-old Berkeley High graduate, turned himself into Berkeley police Wednesday. Police say he drove the getaway car after a friend sprayed bullets in the direction of Willis-Starbuck and others shortly before 2 a.m. Sunday morning. Wilson was arrested for murder and is being held in Berkeley jail on $100,000 bail.
Police have identified the shooter as Chistopher Hollis, a 2001 graduate of Berkeley Alternative School. Hollis, who now lives in Hayward, remained at large as of Thursday evening.
A source close to the event told the Daily Planet that Willis-Starbuck and the two suspects in her murder were at the same party that Saturday night, and parted ways shortly before Willis-Starbuck and her friends were accosted by several men some of whom are believed to be UC Berkeley football players.
Feeling threatened, Willis-Starbuck, the source said, telephoned Hollis. Wilson drove up Dwight Way with Hollis and a third man in the car, the source said. At College Avenue, Hollis jumped out of the car and shot one bullet into the air and three into the crowd.
The men then drove to a house where other Berkeley High graduates were hanging out, according to the source. The men asked their friends to let them park their car in the driveway so it would be out of view. At the time, the three men did not know that one of the bullets hit Willis-Starbuck.
Later that night Hollis reportedly returned to the scene of the shooting, figured out what had happened and fled, the source said. The third boy in the car is said to be out of the country on a pre-planned trip.
The arrest of Wilson shocked those who knew him and Willis-Starbuck.
“It absolutely could not have been on purpose. They were close friends,” said Berkeley High teacher Rick Ayers, who taught both students. Ayers called Wilson “a really great kid.”
Willis-Starbuck, a Dartmouth College junior, was murdered outside of her apartment on College Avenue between Dwight Way and Haste Street. She was living there for the summer while interning at a local center for homeless women.
According to eyewitness Dana Johnson, shortly before the shooting, Willis-Starbuck and several female friends were verbally accosted by a group of five men. An argument began and as most of the women prepared to get into a friend’s car, Willis-Starbuck continued talking to the men.
Police say that a car driving up Dwight Way stopped at College Avenue. A man got out and opened fire at the group, striking Willis-Starbuck with at least one round. No one else was hit.
Okies refused to comment on reports that Willis-Starbuck knew Wilson and Hollis and called them for help following the argument.
“At this stage I cannot go into specifics about any of that,” he said.
Berkeley Police spokesperson Joe Okies said police were not currently looking for other suspects in the crime.
Wilson, a former Berkeley High baseball player, had completed two years at Cabrillo College in Santa Cruz, and was planning to attend UC Santa Cruz in the fall, according to Ayers.
“I’m shocked he would even be in the same car as someone with a gun,” said Ayers, who had lunch with Wilson this spring.
Okies said police had worked around the clock “on a number of leads.” The investigation led to search warrants for the homes of Wilson and Hollis. Wilson turned himself in after police searched his house. The car he was driving is now in police custody.
The victim’s mother, Kimberly Willis-Starbuck, issued a statement Thursday morning that didn’t address the arrests.
“This has become a tragedy for the whole community,” she wrote. “What the family wants most is for violence to end and for healing for everyone to begin.”
The memorial service for Willis-Starbuck will be held at Berkeley High School’s Donohue Gym at 11 a.m. Friday.