Oikos Victim Profile: Shock and Grief Follow the Killing of El Cerrito Woman in Oakland Campus Massacre

The death of nursing student Sonam Chodon at Oikos University in Oakland Monday has shocked and grieved her friends in the local El Cerrito Tibetan community.

El Cerrito resident Sonam Chodon was remembered Tuesday, by saddened friends in the local Tibetan community as kind and devoted to caring for others.

"The whole of our community is in shock," said Tenzin Tsedup, president of the Richmond-based Tibetan Association of Northern California.

Chodon had been studying nursing at Oikos. She moved to El Cerrito to live here with her brother nearly two years ago, Tsedup said.

Chodon,  had been living in the Tibetan community in exile in Dharamsala in India, where she was born and where her parents and grandparents had escaped after the Chinese Communist takeover of Tibet in 1950-51, he said.

Before coming to the United States, Chodon worked for five years on children's education in the Department of Education of the Central Tibetan Administration, the Tibetan government in exile, Tsedup said. 

"She told me she was studying nursing, not to make money, but she really wanted to do something to help everyone," Tulku said.

"She has a very spiritual motivation," said Tulku, who was born in Tibet in 1954 and fled in 1959.

News of her death spread quickly among the close-knit local Tibetan community, said Tulku, a co-founder of the Bay Area Friends of Tibet who also works as a barista at Starbucks in El Cerrito Plaza.

Tulku's phone was busy late into the night, he said. "People were so much shocked, shock and sadness," he said.

"She was very dedicated," Tulku said, adding that she routinely volunteered to lend a hand. "She comes anytime we need help." She was especially devoted to working with children, he said.

Her death not only brought grief but also reinforced the resolve among local Tibetans to foster compassion for all beings and education for children that stresses non-violence, Tulku said. 

Oikos University is a small, private Christian college located near the Oakland Coliseum. Chodon, like most of her compatriots, was a Tibetan Buddhist, said , a spokesman for the Tibetan Association of Northern California. 

About an hour after the campus killings, police arrested a suspect, One Goh, 43, at a Safeway in Alameda. Oakland police Chief Howard Jordan said Goh was a former student seeking revenge on a female member of the school admininistration and shot several students as random victims, according to CNN. He did not locate the adminstrator. Three people were wounded in addition to the seven killed.


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