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Richmond’s Johnny Z

May 8, 2007

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The following was taken from a Richmond News page here.  Johnny recently came through on a Florida tour with Tigershark.

“Police probe activist’s death
Body of ‘Jonny Z’ was under the Boulevard Bridge in Richmond

Tuesday, May 08, 2007 – 12:08 AM

By JIM NOLAN
TIMES-DISPATCH STAFF WRITER

An abandoned bike, a pair of sneakers and blood on Richmond’s Boulevard Bridge were among the pieces of evidence detectives pored over yesterday as they tried to solve the death of a popular city musician, artist and activist.

The body of Jonathan Raymond Zanin, 26, was found about 4 a.m. beneath the north side of the bridge.

Police were unsure yesterday whether Zanin’s death was an accident, suicide or homicide. The pedestrian walkway where his bike and sneakers were found is narrow, and the fence that protects walkers and riders on the outer edge is about 5 feet high.

“We’re still actively working to determine not only the cause of death, but the circumstances surrounding his death,” said Rich-mond police spokeswoman Cynthia Price.

She said there was no preliminary indication that Zanin had been robbed, but the investigation is continuing.

Zanin’s body was taken to the state medical examiner’s office.

Friends said that just hours before he died, Zanin — known as “Jonny Z” — had organized a fundraiser for the group Food, Not Bombs at the New York Delicatessen in Carytown.

They believe the slightly built activist, who rode his bike wherever he went in Richmond, was heading across the bridge to his home in the 800 block of West 49th Street in South Richmond when he died.

“I would be 100 percent shocked if it was anything but foul play,” said Kriss Wilson, owner of Superior Documents, for whom Zanin had worked for several years.

He left in December to help run the Bizarre Art Market on East Grace Street, near the Virginia Commonwealth University campus. Zanin was a VCU graduate.

“He was one of the most giving people I’ve ever known,” Wilson added. “He was very involved with feeding the homeless and [other] charity work and had a great heart. He was full of life and compassion for other people.”

Friends said Zanin worked in restaurants such as Café 821 and Joe’s Inn to help support himself and the causes he embraced. He was also an accomplished drummer who played in a number of bands that toured the country, said Café 821 owner Andrew Clarke, a close friend, neighbor and fellow musician.

“Anywhere I’ve ever been in my life there’s always been one person who wondered if I knew Jonny Z,” said Clarke, describing his friend’s magnetic personality. “And they always had the best things to say about him.”

Yesterday, Zanin’s love of life was remembered by groups of friends who gathered in Oregon Hill and near Zanin’s home, where their loss was expressed in floral bouquets and mementos that filled his porch steps.

“He wasn’t concerned with himself,” Wilson said. “He was concerned with everyone else.”

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