Friends mourn Wal-Mart baseball bat attack victim
The 74-year-old man who was beaten to death with a baseball bat in a brutal, unprovoked attack at a Lakewood Wal-Mart last week was a tireless advocate of off-road motorcycling, his friends and colleagues said.
The attack occurred Nov. 1 when a transient, 47-year-old Richard Lawrence Kalfin, approached David Oakleaf in the store's sporting goods department and began beating him. Sheriff's officials said it did not appear Oakleaf had any warning of the attack.
"It’s one of the most brutal attacks I have ever seen," Sheriff's Lt. Ed Hernandez said at the time.
In interviews with The Times, his friends said he was known as "Daytona Dave" and dedicated his time and energies to the American Motorcyclist Assn., advocating for off-road motorcycling interests as well. He was also an ambassador for the sport in California, working out of the group's district office in Glendale.
"Dave was a very active contributor and well-liked by his fellow delegates. He was very involved in local and state issues regarding motorcycling," said AMA spokesman Pete Terhorst. "His loss is a terrible tragedy for the motorcycling community."
Clifford Cross, who co-owned a desert property and ran a business with Oakleaf, said he was stunned to learn of Oakleaf's death.
"I’m still in shock over it," Cross said of the friend with whom he enjoyed a variety of outdoor pursuits, including off-road motorcycling, fishing and hunting. "Everybody liked him. He had so many friends."
In a statement posted on the AMA's website, Jim Geddes praised Oakleaf as a mentor and tireless advocate who worked "to protect competitive and leisure trail riding throughout California."
"Without the efforts of Dave, competitive dirtbike racing in Southern California would surely be a thing of the past," Geddes wrote. "For that matter, every off roader who enjoys recreating on two stroke bikes owes Dave a great debt of gratitude."
Oakleaf gained a reputation for being an aggressive advocate for the cause.
"The off roading community was faced with very strict emission requirements that would banish all two stroke bikes manufactured after 1997 off of public lands," Geddes wrote. "Working with other stakeholders and agency personnel, Dave would not sign off the plan until they worked out what is currently referred to as the 'red sticker' program. Thanks to his efforts, bikes with red stickers can compete in any sanctioned off road event, and can trail ride during certain times of the year throughout Southern California."
Oakleaf moved to the Long Beach area 45 years ago from upstate New York. He took a job with the Los Angeles County's Department of Public Social Services in El Monte. He retired 20 years ago.
One of his former colleagues, Eileen Ritchie, described Oakleaf as a kind and tenderhearted man. She recalled instances in which he cared for an Irish setter and her pup after the adult canine was struck by a car on the freeway. Another time he found an injured owl in the desert and wrapped a T-shirt around his motorcycle handlebars so the bird could grip while he drove to a raptor rescue center. The bird later recovered.
Ritchie said his death was especially hard because her other friend Lucia Kondas, who also worked with Oakleaf, was one of the victims in last month's mass shooting in Seal Beach.
"It's cruel that two truly kind and nice people have been taken away from us by these violent acts," Ritchie said.
-- Andrew Blankstein (Twitter.com/anblanx)
Phto: A Wal-Mart store in Lakewood was the site of a fatal baseball bat attack. Credit: KTLA