Towering over his siblings, Cherno Ceesay’s kindness and generosity made him every baby’s favorite uncle. The 28-year-old Ceesay emigrated from Gambia to the Eastside in 2011, living with extended family in Bellevue before moving to Kirkland. He was killed while working as an Uber driver on Dec. 13, 2020.
Now, residents from across the Eastside, including Sammamish, have launched an effort to support Ceesay’s family in the wake of his tragic murder, especially since Ceesay was the primary financial support for his family.
Local news coverage of the murder caught the attention of Plateaupians for Peace (P4P), a non-political community organization in Sammamish founded to create a safe space. P4P had responded by organizing events in the wake of the Muslim ban and the Black Lives Matter protests. Nancy Kaplan, vice president of P4P, reached out to the Ceesay family to offer their help.
“We felt an obligation to let them (his family) know that our community cared and wanted to be there to support them through this tragedy,” said Kaplan, who encouraged Ceesay’s family to start a GoFundMe page and organized P4P members to donate to it.
Ceesay was the youngest of five siblings in a family of Eastside caregivers. The gifted athlete was an aspiring professional soccer player, until an injury forced him to change his plans. He began working at Mission Healthcare, a nursing home, before switching to driving full-time for Uber around 2016.
On that fateful December night, Ceesay responded to an Uber request at around 9 p.m. along Renton-Issaquah Road. Nevada couple Olivia Breanna-Lennon Bebic and Devin Kekoa Wade boarded the vehicle and allegedly stabbed Ceesay in the process of stealing his car. The car crashed into a tree just 100 feet away and the couple fled the scene with Ceesay’s phone, according to the indictment. Two days later, GPS tracking of the phone allowed police to locate and arrest the couple for shoplifting. On Dec. 21, the two suspects were charged with first-degree murder and are currently being held on $2 million bail as they await trial.
Ceesay’s older sister, Maram Ceesay, recounts the shock of receiving the call from the medical examiner.
“I could not believe the homicide part of it. Even the Issaquah Police Department was stunned because they don’t get these cases,” she said in an interview, referring to how safe the family felt while living on the Eastside.
Maram Ceesay has appreciated the community support. She said some people have ordered food to be delivered in a socially-distanced manner to the family. Others have called to ask for court dates so that they can attend to show solidarity. Friends and strangers alike have reached out to the family to offer their thoughts, prayers and support. So far, over 100 people have donated on their GoFundMe page, although the family is still short of the goal to cover Ceesay’s funeral costs.
“It made us so emotional that we were not alone in this,” she said. “We went through a tragedy and it’s unfortunate that we cannot fill the void we have right now. But the community’s love and support has made healing a little easier. It has restored our faith in the community.”
If you are interested in donating to support Cherno Ceesay’s family, you can visit their GoFundMe page.