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Crime News

Oakland Baker, Social Justice Activist Jen Angel Killed In Robbery Gone Wrong

Oakland community pillar Jen Angel was killed when she was caught in the door of the getaway car of robbers who allegedly stole her purse on Feb. 6, banging her head against the pavement as she was dragged.

By Christina Coulter
A personal photo of Jennifer Angel

Author, activist and prominent Oakland baker Jen Angel was killed while attempting to fend off two men who allegedly snatched her purse.

Angel, who owned the wildly popular Angel Cakes, attempted to chase down two alleged robbers in their getaway car after they smashed her car window and made off with her purse on Feb. 6, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

The 48-year-old was snagged in the moving car's door in a parking lot outside a Wells Fargo on Webster St., the Oakland Police Department told Law & Crime, and smashed her head on the sidewalk as she was dragged about 50 feet.

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The impact rendered Angel braindead, and she was pulled from life support on Feb. 9.

“It’s with a heavy heart that we announce that Oakland baker, small business owner, social justice activist, and community member Jen Angel has been medically declared to have lost all brain function and will not regain consciousness,” read a statement posted to her Facebook page by family and friends. “Her official time of death was 5:48pm (PT).”

The suspects have yet to be identified publicly, but are known to police, according to the Chronicle. Angel's friends and family, via the Facebook post, are urging authorities to seek a "restorative justice" approach in line with the activist's beliefs, rather than "traditional prosecution" and incarceration.

Emily Harris, an anti-prison advocate and a close friend of the victim, told ABC 7 that she spent most of last week in the intensive care unit with the late activist. Were she still around, Harris said, Angel would not be concerned with avenging her death.

"We are really trying to orient towards her brilliant life, and that actually, she is not a person who would support the policing and imprisonment of the people who harmed her," Harris told the outlet.

"Feels like absolutely an opportunity to stand in her values, and support the world that she wants," she continued, "by actually showing that something different than actual policing and prosecution is possible, and is how we can have accountability."

Angel's family echoed Harris' sentiments in their statement:

“We know Jen would not want to continue the cycle of harm by bringing state-sanctioned violence to those involved in her death or to other members of Oakland’s rich community,” they wrote in a statement on a GoFundMe initiative.

“As a long-time social movement activist and anarchist, Jen did not believe in state violence, carceral punishment, or incarceration as an effective or just solution to social violence and inequity.”

The fundraiser has amassed nearly $150,000 toward Angel's family and community as of Feb. 14. Her  bakery, which regularly boasted out-the-door lines according to ABC affiliate KGO-TV, will be kept open using funds from Angel's estate.

Harris told the Chronicle that just because she and Angel's family don't want Angel's attackers to serve hard jail time "doesn't mean that there isn't accountability."

"What [that] could look like isn’t about putting a person into further harm," she told the outlet, "[but] understanding how we’re going to prevent this from happening to the next Jen Angel.”

The Oakland Police Department told the Chronicle that they were investigating Angel's death as a homicide.

Peter Woiwode, another friend and fellow activist, recalled that Angel called upon the community for help rather than contacting law enforcement when a speeding car crashed through her bakery's window in 2019, causing major damage. A year later, he told the Chronicle, she called on friends and neighbors for financial assistance when a man smashed her shop window with a stone amid a mental health crisis.

“It was totally random, and just unfortunate on so many levels, like the state of mental health care in general and the randomness of that connecting with our big window," Angel wrote on Instagram at the time of the incident.

Nenne Joiner, owner of the Feelmore shop in Oakland, remembered Angel for her commitment to the city despite the "difficulties" caused by its crime rate that make business owners "pause and think about [their] own mortality."

"Being in the city of Oakland, as an entrepreneur, as a small business owner, you have to know why you are there. And a lot of us are doing activist work as we are doing small business work at the same time," Joiner told KGO-TV.

Stevie Stacionis, who owns nearby Bay Grape Wine, said that Angel was "really forward thinking and mindful of ways that we could do better by our community."

Stacionis told the outlet that Angel was focused on balancing inequality before social justice came to the cultural forefront.

Stacionis added that she hoped that Angel's passing might spark positivity in the Oakland community: "[I hope] she reignited some of that spark and more of a spotlight on the work that needs to be done," she said.

Angel, formerly Jennifer Engel, co-founded a widely published alternative magazine in Ohio called "Clamor" that billed itself as a "DIY guide to everyday revolution," according to her obituary.The publication ran for seven years and printed 38 issues.

Born in Dearborn, Michigan, Angel grew up in Cleveland and graduated from Ohio State University with a major in journalism in 1997. She also published "Zine Yearbook" and edited MaximumRockNRoll.

She and former husband Jason Kucsma, who co-published Clamor, also organized "an annual underground and grassroots media conference that drew hundreds from all over Bowling Green," her obituary read. She co-founded independent media advocacy organization Allied Media Projects.

In 2008, Angel opened her bakery, selling "cookies, cakesicles and other treats" along with cupcakes and cakes, according to its website.

Matt Leonard of Oakland, a friend who met Angel through her writing in alternative magazines in the 1990s, said that the family's request to spare hard time for Angel's attackers is "absolutely the value she lived and practiced by."

"Some people are confusing that kind of justice with doing nothing. It's the opposite. It just doesn't look like throwing someone away and locking them up."