When Toby Pemadorji Eagle, who was gunned down Tuesday in his backyard on Blake Street, was just an infant, a Native American visited him and gave him six eagle feathers. His mother, Ann Strong, thought the gift was an omen, so she changed her son’s last name to Eagle.
It turned out to be an apt moniker because Eagle loved the outdoors. From the time he joined the Junior Rangers at 9, Eagle spent as much time as he could outside, hiking in Tilden Park, swimming, and, later, teaching his two sons to skip rocks in the ocean or taking them to build things at Adventure Playground at the Berkeley Marina.
“He was such an amazing person,” said his high school girlfriend and mother of his son, Tobias, 10, who asked to be referred to only as Stacey since the killer is still at large. “He loved the outdoors. He loved swimming. For several years he was a lifeguard at Willard Pool. He loved to go on hikes. He loved building things.”
All that came to an end around 1 p.m. on March 8. Eagle had just said goodbye to a friend and was waiting for his fiancée, Tiffieny, and their 7-year-old son Julian to come home when an assailant or assailants came around the side of his house at 1634 Blake St. and shot him in the back. Eagle died in his backyard, his beloved dog Kunte barking at his side, according to Stacey. He was 30.
Family and friends are incredulous that anyone would want to kill Eagle, whom they described as a caring man who made his living as an electrician but whose other true passion was working on his 1969 black Chevy Camaro.
“He was a beautiful, caring, optimistic person who believed he could make positive change in the world,” his mother, Ann Strong, said on Tuesday from the Prince Street apartment in south Berkeley where she raised Eagle and his sister Madeline Waterfall-Quiton. “I can’t imagine anyone wanting to kill him.”
“Friendly is such an understatement to describe Toby,” said Stacey. “He was so compassionate toward anyone. He was always volunteering to help people. He was not argumentative at all. Of all the people, he wasn’t involved with anything bad so how could this happen in his own backyard?”
Berkeley police have not arrested any suspects. They have said they do not think this was a random shooting. It was the first homicide in Berkeley in 2011.
Eagle was born March 19, 1980, in the Pink House commune in Oakland to Strong and Stanley Whittaker. He moved to Berkeley when he was a toddler and attended LeConte Elementary School, Willard Middle School, and graduated from Berkeley High in 1999.
“He was a father figure to me my whole life,” said Waterfall-Quiton, who is three years younger than her brother. “It’s pretty shocking for me.”
The family is planning to hold a service for Eagle on March 18 at the Lake Merritt Chapel. The time of the service has not been determined.
Eagle’s family and friends are just trying to figure out how to live in a world without him.
“I love you daddy,” his son Tobias wrote on Berkeleyside. “I miss you already. I had fun always playing video games with you. I love you dad.”
Update 04.01.11: Leyla Momeny, a friend of Toby Eagle’s mother, has created a way for people to donate to Eagle’s family, in particular to help raise money to go toward a college fund for Eagle’s two sons. Visit the Tobias and Julian website to make a PayPal donation. Momeny is also organizing a benefit concer at El Rio in San Francisco.