For 10 years after being shot by a masked gunman, Ronnie Tiger lay in a hospital bed, able to do little except blink and smile. Now his death is considered one of San Francisco’s latest unsolved murders.
On the night of April 16, 2001, the Bayview resident was shot in the head at point-blank range and left a quadriplegic. He died last month at Alameda Hospital, apparently due to “complications from the shooting,” police spokesman Sgt. Michael Andraychak said.
While it’s not unusual for police to declare a death a homicide weeks, or even months, after the injury is inflicted, it is rare to do so after more than a decade.
Police say Tiger was confronted by a black male suspect wearing a blue ski mask at Third Street and Palou Avenue. The suspect shot him and then fled in a waiting burgundy van with three other males, police said.
The gang task force investigated the shooting, but no arrests were made. The case remains “an active and open investigation,” Andraychak said, and anyone who may have information about the shooting is encouraged to call the Police Department’s anonymous tip line at (415) 575-4444 or text a tip to TIP411.
What sticks with Tiger’s mother was the remarkable life her son led once he recovered from a coma after the shooting.
“In the beginning, I stayed with him; I didn’t leave his side for the first year, at least,” Alison Mickels said. “I thought that as long as he could wake up and see someone familiar, he would heal.”
Mickels said she rejected doctors’ advice to remove Tiger’s life support after the shooting.
“He was able to signal me with his eyes,” she said. “He said, ‘I’m in here, don’t pull the plug.’”
Mickels got her son into a rehab program for people with brain injuries, and he spent his remaining years in Alameda Hospital’s sub-acute unit, though he remained paralyzed and unable to speak, she said.
“He communicated by blinking,” she said. “He could still smile with half of his face, and he made decisions.”
At the hospital, she and her son developed their own language through his subtle facial expressions. One blink was “Yes,” two was “No.” She said her son’s sense of humor also came through.
“The nurses were never able to understand how he would tell the things he told me,” she said.
On Sept. 24, the 30-year-old’s heart gave out, his mother said. He is survived by daughters ages 13 and 10.
Mickels remembers her son as a funny, articulate kid who loved reggae and rap music. She said he got into a little trouble as a teenager, but at the time he was shot, he was enrolled at City College, and had an unusual interest: astronomy.
“No one knew that,” Mickels said. “He liked the stars.”