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Lawyers Investigate Death of Steve 'Zumbi' Gaines, Zion I MC

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Friends and family remember Steve 'Zumbi' Gaines as an insightful lyricist, spiritual practitioner and devoted father. Now, lawyers are investigating the cause of his untimely death at Alta Bates Summit Medical Center.
Friends and family remember Steve 'Zumbi' Gaines as an insightful lyricist, spiritual practitioner and devoted father.  (Jason Sinn)

Update, Aug. 21: The life celebration of Steve “Zumbi” Gaines on Aug. 22 is now an online-only event taking place at 5pm on the Sway’s Universe YouTube channel. Details here.

Original post: 

The family of Stephen “Zumbi” Gaines has hired a legal team to investigate the circumstances surrounding his Aug. 13 death at Alta Bates Summit Medical Center.

Initial statements from close friends indicated that Gaines, the beloved MC of East Bay hip-hop group Zion I, died from a combination of COVID-19 and a severe asthma attack. But a San Francisco Chronicle report on Sunday revealed that Gaines had been involved in a struggle at the hospital during which hospital security pinned him down and Berkeley police handcuffed him.

Now, his family’s lawyers, Elizabeth Grossman and Lyn Agre, are investigating the cause of the 49-year-old’s untimely death and urging the public to reach out with information.


“We believe there are witnesses who know firsthand the facts leading to Stephen’s death. We urge anyone with information to reach out and share their knowledge confidentially with us at office@elizabethgrossmanlaw.com,” Grossman said in a statement.

Berkeley police told the Chronicle that homicide detectives are also investigating the case, and that a preliminary investigation by the Alameda County District Attorney’s office “determined no force was used by Berkeley police officers.” The investigation is still ongoing.

Gaines’ partner, Millaray Rodriguez Avila, urged the public to be patient as the family searched for answers. “Breathe and be still as we gather the necessary facts surrounding Steve’s departure,” she said in a statement.

In the days since Gaines’ death, family members, friends and fans posted tributes to Zumbi as an insightful lyricist, loving father and devoted tai chi practitioner. A GoFundMe campaign is currently collecting donations for a scholarship fund for his three boys, and family, friends and fans plan to gather for a life celebration on Aug. 22 at the Township Commons in Oakland.

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