Two years ago, Roy Ravana Jr. traveled more than 5,000 miles from his home in Fiji to the United States, in search of better education and athletic opportunities.
He was already a celebrated athlete in his home country, and his star continued to rise stateside, according to friends and family. After a year at Iowa Central Community College, Ravana, 19, made a pit stop in Sacramento, where he became a valuable addition to the Sacramento Lions rugby club. In the fall, he expected to attend the University of Louisiana on a track and field scholarship.
Now, friends, family members and fans in Fiji who once shared dreams of his future are reeling from the news of his violent end.
Ravana was gunned down Monday afternoon at the corner of 48th Street and Baker Avenue in the troubled Fruitridge neighborhood of Sacramento County. A 21-year-old man also was hit but is expected to survive, according to authorities. Shell casings from three different guns were found scattered across two blocks.
Contacted by The Sacramento Bee on Tuesday, Anasa Koroitamana, 46, said he had trouble finding the words to describe the tragedy of his nephew’s death.
“It is so sad,” Koroitamana said. “I’m so sorry to hear what happened to him.”
Early Tuesday morning, detectives arrested two juvenile suspects – one 16 years old, the other 17 – in connection with the shootings. They were booked into juvenile hall on suspicion of murder and assault with a deadly weapon, and face sentencing enhancements because of their ties to a gang, said Sacramento County sheriff’s Sgt. Lisa Bowman. The teens have not been identified because of their ages.
Bowman said it was not clear whether the victims fired any shots in the melee, or whether they had any gang affiliations.
But friends and family of Ravana said they didn’t know of any such criminal behavior by the young man.
The news is hard to comprehend, said friend Aaron Frederick, because “none of this fits with the person I knew.”
“He was a very nice person,” Frederick, manager of the Sacramento Lions rugby club, wrote in an email to The Bee. “We as a community are shocked by this.”
“It’s still a shock to most of us because we know Roy’s not that kind of person,” said friend Ilene Lasaisamoa, 21. “He’s too good-hearted to be part of any gang activities.”
Ravana, who Lasaisamoa said was “like a brother,” came to the United States in 2012 and attended Iowa Central Community College for a year after being recruited by scouters who saw him run in Fiji. Anticipating a scholarship to attend the University of Louisiana for his sophomore year, Ravana came to Sacramento, where he had extended family, to await final word of the offer.
A confirmation letter came about a month ago, Lasaisamoa said, and he planned to start school again in the fall.
She described Ravana as a sweet and generous young man who had been embraced by Sacramento’s tight-knit Polynesian community.
“We considered him family,” she said. “He was always welcome (in anyone’s home).”
According to his Facebook page and reports from media in Fiji, Ravana attended the prestigious Marist Brothers High School. A Facebook page for current students and alumni posted a comment lamenting Ravana’s death, calling him a “loyal son” of Fiji.
News reports from the country also indicate he represented Fiji while competing in athletic events all over the world.
Koroitamana said his nephew was a dedicated, disciplined athlete who was respectful of his elders. His parents had high expectations for their son, Koroitamana said.
Ravana’s parents, who are trying to arrange travel from Fiji to Sacramento County, could not be reached for comment. His father told the Fiji Times that his son had been cleaning up a friend’s yard when the gunfire erupted. The younger Ravana was shot when he ran out to help a friend who had been hit, his father told the newspaper.
Bowman said investigators are still trying to figure out what led to the shooting and what, if any, role the victims played.
It also was not clear whether the shooting was related to a homicide at the same location about one year ago. On May 18, 2013, Atelea Kaihea, 27, was fatally shot outside a home in what authorities at the time described as a gang-related incident. His 22-year-old cousin also was hit but survived. The case remains unsolved.