About two dozen people gathered Thursday evening to remember a quirky homeless man and familiar face around GW who was brutally slain near campus on Christmas Eve.
The small vigil was conducted outside the Potomac Plaza Apartments at 24th Street and Virginia Avenue where Yoshio Nakada, 61, was found dead on Dec. 24. Nakada died from multiple chop wounds to the head, skull fractures and a subarachnoid hemorrhage – a form of stroke, according to the D.C. Medical Examiner’s office.
Nakada often spent time around the GW campus, sometimes frequenting the basement of Ivory Tower and the 7-Eleven near Thurston Hall.
Members of a local Quaker society and representatives from the D.C. Department of Homeless Services, the Salvation Army and the Japanese Embassy all spoke at the ceremony, telling tales of the Japanese immigrant whose zest for life was apparent, even to those who had barely met him.
“He was a nice person. I normally gave him sandwiches on my way home,” said Juanita Carter, an employee at Pita Pit. “A lot of people here remember him.”
Though he was hard to understand since he spoke little English, Nakada had recently begun to attend gatherings at Friends Meeting of Washington, members of the group said.
“It’s a silent meeting and you speak as you feel moved. He spoke as he felt moved, and he didn’t speak in a way that we could understand. Except we could understand the feeling,” said Rob Callard, a Friends Meeting attendee.
He had lived in D.C. since 2003 and before that spent three years in a mental hospital in his home country of Japan, according to court documents filed after he was arrested for unlawfully entering the Marvin Center in 2004.
Speakers at the vigil reminisced about Nakada’s love for singing. Those who knew him reported he could often be found carrying a tune, and he especially enjoyed singing “Danke Schoen,” a German love song popularized by Wayne Newton.
Nakada’s penchant for performing was not just limited to song, however. Susan Meehan, who also attended Friends meetings and led the vigil, reported she had seen Nakada dancing just weeks earlier.
“I saw him dancing, spinning and twirling about a week before he died, in our assembly room,” Meehan said.
But although those at the vigil will remember him well, fond memories of his life likely do not erase the tragedy of his death.
The location of the incident was also particularly shocking to many community members, who were stunned that such a blatant murder had happened in an area of D.C. not known for violence.
“This is not an unguarded area. You have surveillance cameras, you have a highway,” said Bob Meehan, a vigil attendee and commissioner on the Advisory Neighborhood Commission 2B, near Dupont Circle. “This is not a crime-ridden area.”
But even with the high amount of traffic and surveillance cameras in the area, Metropolitan Police Department Detective Sean Caine said Nakada’s murder is a particularly difficult case.
MPD is offering a reward up to $25,000 for information that leads to the arrest and conviction of Nakada’s killer.