Young shooting victim remembered as brilliant, kind

Catherine “Cate” Fisher had the world on a string.

Catherine “Cate” Fisher

A freshman at Cal State East Bay in Hayward, the Menlo Park 19-year-old was on a path to become a high school math teacher. She enjoyed a loving family and close friendships, her Jewish upbringing spurring her to make the world a better place.

A random act of violence took it all away. Cate Fisher died July 13 after reputed gang members shot her as she sat in a car in East Palo Alto. It was a case of mistaken identity, according to a spokesman for the East Palo Alto Police Department.

Three suspects have been identified, with one currently in custody.

While her father, Jonathan Fisher of Belmont, said he is relieved that the arrests mean “one part of this nightmare is over,” he prefers to remember how his daughter lived, rather than how she died.

“Cate was brilliant,” said Fisher. “She was unbelievably smart, and so charming. She would always find ways to get what she wanted.”

A July 22 memorial service was held at the family’s synagogue, Peninsula Temple Beth El, followed by a public reception at the Arrillaga Family Recreation center in Menlo Park.

As a child, Cate attended Hebrew school at Peninsula Temple Beth El in San Mateo. She had a bat mitzvah and confirmation there as well.

Rabbi Karen Citrin remembers Fisher as an inquisite, vibrant student. She coached the teen though her bat mitzvah and chaperoned her and other Beth El youth to Washington, D.C., for a social action seminar that same year.

“In some ways Cate marched to her own drum,” Citrin said. “She was a strong individual, while at the same time she was also friendly, bubbly and kind to many of her peers. This was not how Cate’s story was supposed to end.”

Jonathan Fisher remembered his daughter as “politically excitable, pro-choice and pro-environment,” adding, “She had good, solid liberal positions on everything. She was excited about voting when she got the chance.”

She was also active in gymnastics, not only as an athlete but as a teacher at the city’s Menlo Park Gymnastics Program.

Her father and grandfather both have extensive math and science backgrounds, so it came as no surprise to her family that Fisher showed an aptitude for math. Her SAT scores at Melon-Atherton High School and Cañada College were “off the charts,” her father said.

That’s what she pursued at Cal State East Bay, having finished her semester there in May.

At approximately 2 a.m. on July 13, parked on Annapolis Street in East Palo Alto, Fisher was sitting in a car with a friend and a third person, reportedly a man they were dropping off at home, when the shooting occurred.

According to press reports, three reputed gang members responsible for a spate of violent crimes in the area approached the car and fired. Fisher was struck and taken to nearby Stanford Hospital, where she died of her injuries.

The outpouring of grief from both the Jewish community and the South Bay in general has touched the family.

“We’ve been overwhelmed by the positive response,” said Fisher. “It’s been really nice. My daughter loved the congregation, and was toying with the idea of continuing on at a Jewish college, but she got distracted by teaching math. She loved the Jewish community” and the people at the synagogue.

Despite their grief, said her father, the family knows it must press on.

“I know Cate was doing what she wanted,” he said. “It was just an unfortunate situation, a senseless act of violence by psychopaths. I struggle each day. But I have to move on. We’re doing what we think is best for Cate, and best for the family.”

Cate Fisher is survived by her father, Jonathan Fisher of Belmont; mother Michelle Sutton of Menlo Park, step-parents Paula Fisher and Mitch Sutton, and four siblings. Donations may be made to Susan G. Komen for the Cure (

Dan Pine

Dan Pine is a contributing editor at J. He was a longtime staff writer at J. and retired as news editor in 2020.