Japanese student remembered at vigil one year after he was fatally struck by police vehicle

Japanese student remembered at vigil one year after he was fatally struck by police vehicle
By Christina Santucci

Huddled on a damp sidewalk in Queensbridge a little after midnight Friday, more than one dozen mourners gathered to remember a Japanese student who authorities say was fatally struck by an NYPD cruiser last year.

Ryo Oyamada had been crossing 40th Avenue near 11th Street early Feb. 21 when he was hit and killed by a police vehicle driving by an officer assigned to Police Service Area 9, which covers most of the public housing projects in Queens, the NYPD said.

Exactly one year later, friends and relatives, some of whom traveled from his homeland of Japan, joined Queensbridge residents to pay tribute to him at a candlelight vigil.

Tomoko Suzuki, 35, one of Oyamada’s two sisters, recalled how her brother had dreamed of riding a bicycle across the Brooklyn Bridge but hadn’t found time to do so in the three months he was living in Queensbridge. Suzuki traveled with Oyamada’s other sister, Kaoru, from Japan for the memorial.

“Of course, I worried about him as a sister,” she said when asked what she thought of her younger brother moving nearly 7,000 miles away.

“After he moved here, it seemed like he was so happy and enjoying his life, [I] was relieved to know that he was doing well,” Suzuki said through a translator.

Suzuki said that after her brother’s death her family was told very little about the circumstances, and his family filed a cilvil action suit in Brooklyn federal court against the city and the NYPD several months later.

“Unable to be heard at the local level, the Oyamadas now see relief in federal court in the hopes that the wheels of justice, however slowly they turn, will shed light on this matter that has been kept under a shroud of secrecy for an entire year,” the family’s attorney Christopher Fitzerald told attendees. “But rather than simply to mourn his loss, we gather here today to honor the man that Ryo was, and celebrate the joy that he brough to those around him.”

A budding photographer and guitar enthusiast, Oyamada enjoyed fashion, his sister said.

Friend Stefan Johnson, who had been one of several friends that had dinner several hours before Oyamada died, said the Zoni Language student had a unique aura,

“I only knew him for a short time, but it just feels like I’ve known him for much longer,” he said. “He just gave off something that you had to be happy around him.”

Johnson would send text messages in Japanese to Oyamada, who would sometimes respond in English, so they could both practice their language skills.

He sang a rendition of Miguel’s “Where’s the Fun in Forever” as the vigil concluded.

Reach managing editor Christina Santucci by e-mail at timesledgerphotos@gmail.com by phone at 718-260-4589.