Ezekial Bishop remembered, honored at Thousand Oaks crash site

Andres Soto, Sports Editor

Flowers, candles, posters, glowsticks and white balloons filled up a stretch of Westlake Boulevard just north of Skelton Canyon Circle in Thousand Oaks on Wednesday night. Some people left snacks or items such as Oaks Christian High School hats, footballs, cleats, and a giant plush doll of Winnie the Pooh. Photos were scattered throughout the area, most of which showcased Ezekial “Zeek” Bishop’s signature smile.

“He was such a ball of energy,” said Ashley Campbell, a lifelong friend of Bishop. “He had a contagious and roaring laugh that would fill up the room … He was a beautiful and pure soul, you’d never see him not smiling from ear to ear. He spread nothing but love and laughter wherever he went.”

Bishop, 20, and his close friend, Ryan Breaux, 18, died on the early morning of Aug. 2 when the Tesla Bishop was driving crashed into a tree on that same stretch of Westlake Boulevard, where roughly 100-200 of their friends, family and teachers gathered 10 days later to mourn and honor Bishop and Breaux.

A white balloon with a written message for Ezekial Bishop at his vigil at Thousand Oaks, Calif., on Wednesday, Aug.12, 2020. (Chris Torres)

If you were to ask someone about Bishop, they would likely tell you about his smile, his energy, how he filled up a room with his presence. They would usually follow with an anecdote of a joke he made or just something he did that would make them laugh. Bishop was a consistent source of positivity for seemingly everyone he came across. That was reflected in the eulogies given on Wednesday.

“He was my baby,” said Tamika Bridgewater, a family friend who used to babysit Bishop, before breaking down in tears. “I don’t know what I’m going to do, I just don’t know. Just not being able to make any new memories or just see his smile.”

Attendees participate in a group prayer at the vigil for Ezekial Bishop and Ryan Breaux at Thousand Oaks, Calif., on Wednesday, Aug. 12, 2020. (Chris Torres)

Even those who did not know Bishop personally were touched by his energy and positivity. Sabrina Nardone, a classmate of his at Oaks Christian, recalled several times when she would be in class and could hear Bishop randomly yelling throughout the hallways, or how he would be at the front of every pep rally, football game, track meet or other school events to get the crowd energized.

“The ripple effect that Zeek had on our lives is far-reaching,” Nardone said. “He impacted thousands of people at Oaks Christian, and clearly in his community as well.”

Brandi Prieto, assistant strength and conditioning coach at Oaks Christian, shared a different side of Bishop, who lost his father, Dijon Bishop, in a car accident in 2015.

“He masked a lot of his own trauma and pain with just being lively,” Prieto said. “That’s one of the things I loved about him. The way he coped with his pain was by spreading joy to everyone else. So if you knew Zeek and you loved him, just know that was one of the sources of why he was the way he was.”

When Bishop’s father died, Sean Bridgewater, Tamika Bridgewater’s husband, promised himself that he would help Bishop in any way that he could. He would text him before his football games, “Have a great game, nephew. Go out there and be great.”

Although they weren’t related, Bridgewater said he refers to Bishop as his nephew because he “loved him just like he was that, and I’ll miss him just like he was that.”

Fred Hodge, Bishop’s grandfather, remembered how they would bear hug each other as a greeting until one of them would let go, which were usually won by Hodge. Bishop would laugh and ask his grandfather to let him go, to which Hodge would say, “No, I’m going to leave this indelibly in your heart, so you know your grandpa loves you.”

The crowd broke glow sticks to symbolize the light Bishop and Breaux shared with the people in their lives. That stretch of Westlake Boulevard, pitch black in the night sky, began to light up as the sticks cracked one by one. The white balloons were released as the crowd walked away from the site, but the spirits of Bishop and Breaux will remain with those who loved them.

Pastor Jade Molina leads the crowd in a glow stick ceremony and prayer during the conclusion of the vigil for Ezekial Bishop and Ryan Breaux in Thousand Oaks, Calif., on Wednesday, Aug. 12, 2020. (Chris Torres)