Community mourns murder of musician, demands justice
Death of former CCC student meets hate crime statute
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An exhaustive search is continuing for two suspects following the robbery and murder of former Contra Costa College student and Jazz-ology member William Sims Nov. 12 in El Sobrante.
One suspect, Daniel Porter-Kelly, 31, of Richmond, is already in custody and has been charged with robbery and murder, with a hate crime enhancement, according to the Contra Costa County Sheriff’s department.
Ray Simmons, 32, of Hercules and Daniel Ortega, 31, of Richmond continue to evade law enforcement’s attempts to apprehend them.
Porter-Kelly was caught on Nov. 16 during a raid conducted at the Novato home of his mother, 54-year-old Renee Brown.
Detectives detained Brown and are holding her on $54,000 bail for suspicion of interfering with a criminal investigation.
Officials have yet to release the action that led the district attorney to officially file the hate crime enhancement clause.
“We are not at a point where we can release that information because this is an ongoing investigation,” Contra Costa Sheriff spokesperson Jimmy Lee said. “At this point only one suspect has been booked on robbery and murder charges.”
The California Penal Code section 422.55 lists a “hate crime” as a criminal act committed in whole or in part because of one or more of the following actual or perceived characteristics of the victim: disability, gender, nationality, race or ethnicity religion or sexual orientation.
According to friends, Sims, 28, of Richmond was out singing karaoke with friends before stopping at the Capri Club on the 4100 block of Appian Way before heading home.
This is where Porter-Kelly, Simmons and Ortega allegedly beat and robbed Sims before gunning the accomplished musician down in the street.
Officers found Sims laying on Appian Way at roughly 2:11 a.m. according to Contra Costa County Sheriff’s official statement.
“Will (Sims) was a success story. He sang for an award-winning vocal group. He was a soloist on stage playing jazz piano. He was an accomplished musician,” music department Chairperson Wayne Organ said. “When he finished his time here he could truly say ‘I can compete with the best.’”
As information becomes available, many believe race will find its way to the center of the official investigation.
The murder of Sims has garnered national attention as a hate crime as reports of offenses against minorities of all types following the Nov. 8 election of President-elect Donald Trump.
The Southern Poverty Law Center tracks reports of hate crimes and documented nearly 900 incidents in the first 10 days following Trump’s election.
A GoFundMe page was set up for Sims’ memorial fund by his cousin Michelle Smith who has been inundated with gestures of respect toward Sims and support for his family as they cope with this unexpected tragedy.
Jordan Miller, friend of Sims and current CCC student, spent time with the musician during his days performing with Jazz-ology and remembers the “it-factor” that burned inside of the 28-year-old.
“I would always notice his energy and how happy he seemed,” Miller said. “The first thing he would do is hop on the piano and start playing.”
College President Mojdeh Mehdizadeh called the killing a tragedy and said she plans to release a statement of support in the coming days.
For now, the murder leaves friends of Sims searching for answers.
“I haven’t got to where I can confront what happened. I’ve never known anyone who had this happen to them particularly under these circumstances — I’m still in the denial stage,” Organ said.
“Bad things happen to people all of the time, but not like this. His personality didn’t lend to this.”