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Musician killed in Oakland while trying to retrieve stolen laptop

San Francisco Chronicle logo San Francisco Chronicle 8/11/2017 Filipa Ioannou, Michael Bodley

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He was a musician living in Oakland who reminded friends of an experimental Bob Dylan, with a raspy voice and an aptitude for throwing singer-songwriter conventions to the wind in the pursuit of his art.

Dave Deporis was killed in the middle of the day Wednesday in Oakland when he ran after the getaway car of the robber who took his laptop and ended up being dragged and run over, police said.

The incident unfolded about 12:35 p.m. when at least one person snatched Deporis’ laptop as he worked at a cafe on Telegraph Avenue, near Rich Street, in the Temescal neighborhood, police said.

Witnesses said the 40-year-old Deporis grabbed on to the side of a red Audi sport utility vehicle the robber jumped in and was briefly dragged until he slipped beneath the wheels of the vehicle and was run over.

No arrests were made in the robbery, and Deporis was pronounced dead at a local hospital.

“The saddest news. ... I’m so sorry to hear it. ... Rest In Peace,” popular singer Regina Spektor wrote of Deporis in a condolence posted on Twitter.

Deporis kept all of his music on the stolen laptop, said Chris Vogel, a close friend. That’s everyone’s best guess for why he chased down that Audi, Vogel said. Dave Deporis, 40, was a talented musician who was tragically killed in Oakland’s Temescal neighborhood on Wednesday. © Hearst Newspapers Dave Deporis, 40, was a talented musician who was tragically killed in Oakland’s Temescal neighborhood on Wednesday.

To his friends, and the musical community worldwide, Deporis, according to Vogel, was something of an “international man of mystery.” To say that he was from Oakland would be misleading, considering he grew up in Florida, spent time in New York and only made it back to the Bay Area in recent months.

He somehow knew everyone and was everywhere at once, but never seemed to hold down a full-time job, Vogel said, because he was always chasing his dream of playing music for a living.

Deporis would tote his acoustic guitar everywhere he went, Vogel said, leading impromptu jam sessions with a variety of musicians of a variety of skill levels. What mattered to Deporis, his friends said, were the people who surrounded him and the music they played together. Just about everything else was of secondary concern.

He “very rarely” accepted any money for his gigs, Vogel said, adding that Deporis wasn’t overly concerned with how to make a living. He was concerned with living itself, Vogel said.

“He’s a performer in every sense of the word,” Vogel said. “At the drop of a hat, he could play music for people. ... If there was a musician who could kind of break that fourth wall and draw the audience in, it was him.”

His unconventional guitar undertones are featured in his music, which is widely available online. Deporis could shift from a low murmur to a throaty yell in a matter of seconds, a testament to his vocal range, friends said. Dave Deporis, 40, was a talented musician who was tragically killed in Oakland’s Temescal neighborhood on Wednesday. © Hearst Newspapers Dave Deporis, 40, was a talented musician who was tragically killed in Oakland’s Temescal neighborhood on Wednesday.

In one of his songs, “The Darkness,” Deporis crooned, “there’s something burning in my eyes, and I can’t tell you what it is/ There’s something turning in my mind, and I am not sure what it is.”

Later in that same track, he sang “just like Bob Dylan played his songs,” a fleeting reference to one of his musical role models.

“You were willing to sing in the ocean until it got dark, and I was willing to follow you,” one friend posted on Facebook in memory of Deporis. “Thank you.”

Another friend of Deporis, a musician who lives in Oakland who asked that his name not be used, described him as having an unbelievably wide circle of friends, someone who made new ones everywhere he went.

The friend said he last saw Deporis at yet another impromptu show in Oakland at the end of last week. At that show, like at others, Deporis was a “mover and a shaker,” the friend said, someone who had a larger-than-life presence.

Deporis had recently been couch-surfing in the Bay Area, but friends said they did not think twice about helping him, whether that was putting him up in their living room for a night or two, cooking him dinner or just shooting the breeze.

Dave Deporis © Dave Deporis, Via Facebook Dave Deporis

“He was a great storyteller and had all sorts of crazy stories that sometimes you weren’t sure that you believed 100 percent, but you would still just listen to them because they were so good,” the friend said.

Another friend, Robert Martin, said via email that he believed Deporis’ untitled and latest album — which was not finished — was on the stolen laptop. Martin, who is now in Germany, said he was planning a memorial for Deporis upon his return.

The suspicion that there was no backup of the album was confirmed by a number of people who knew the late musician.

“His friends and his music are everything to him, and that’s probably why he was as gung-ho about getting his computer back as he was,” Vogel said. “All of his music was recorded on his computer, and most everyone else would have let it go.”

Michael Bodley and Filipa Ioannou are San Francisco Chronicle staff writers. Email: mbodley@sfchronicle.com, fioannou@sfchronicle.com, Twitter: @michael_bodley, @obioannoukenobi

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