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Jeremy Lum: A life in academia, athletics
Jeremy Lum as a student at the University of California at Berkeley. - photo by Photo Contributed

Much has been written about Jeremy Lum and his tragic, untimely demise.

Due to the nature of the circumstances surrounding his death five years ago, police reports and subsequent investigation, and now a court trial involving a wrongful death lawsuit filed by his parents that is about to begin in federal court have overshadowed the life of a young man, the things he accomplished in the 29 years of his life, and the grand plans he held for the future.

At the time of his death, the UC Berkeley graduate was planning to obtain a degree in nursing in hopes of getting a job as a nurse on a cruise ship and see the world at the same time.

By all accounts, Jeremy was an excellent student – both at Lathrop Elementary School and Sierra High School. But he was an outstanding athlete as well, both in high school and in college. He played football throughout his four years at Sierra. He wrestled and placed in sub-section and section competitions. He pole-vaulted on the track team.

He excelled so well in Timberwolves’ sports that many of his football and pole-vaulting records still stand today. He went on to compete in pole vaulting at the collegiate level.

At the University of California, Berkeley where he graduated with a degree in Philosophy, he not only competed in pole vaulting but was an assistant trainer with the Cal Bears football team as well.

He demonstrated athleticism at a very young age. When he was eight years old, he started playing tackle football for the Delta Rebels and reached the post-season championship playoff in each of his six years with the team. He was the Delta Rebels’ quarterback.

He was an accomplished surfer as well, and had participated in ocean rescue from having lived in San Diego and Hawaii.

But while he enjoyed life in the academic and sports realm, Jeremy never lost touch with his very close-knit extended family. The family foundation that nurtured him from birth continued through his adolescence and adulthood. He was especially close to his aunt, Connie Lum Perez, mainly because they had the same birth date, and every year they celebrated that red-letter day together which always doubled the fun for the family.

Like all members of the Lums’ second- and third-generation families, the tall and athletic Jeremy put in hours working at Delta Market, the neighborhood grocery store that his grandparents Bicky and Mae Lum founded more than half a century ago. It was at the Seventh Street grocery store that his father, Jerry, and mother Dorathea met. Like many of the teen-agers who grew up in Lathrop, Dorathea earned pocket money by working part-time at the store. Dorathea, a former Miss Lathrop, and Jerry have since been divorced but they remain close and doting grandparents to their three grandchildren, with a fourth on the way.

Jeremy was the oldest of the couple’s four children – brother Ryan lives in Manteca with his wife and two children, youngest brother Andrew lives in Lathrop, and their sister Kiersten also lives in Manteca.

The extended, four-generation Lum family is deeply entrenched in the Lathrop community. Not only did the Lums’ Delta Market provide jobs for many of the youth in town, they were also staunch supporters of school projects and community events which were extended quietly. Bicky and Mae Lum shunned the limelight religiously, and gave back to the community without expectation of any type of recognition.

Jeremy’s life underwent a significant setback after graduating from Berkeley. In 2005, he developed severe mental problems and underwent the first of several hospitalizations. He was under psychiatric care and medication for this mental condition. During that year, doctors who were treating him were uncertain about the exact nature of his psychotic breakdown. On May 12, 2005, he was discharged from St. Joseph’s Behavioral Center with a diagnosis of hallucinations and possible schizophrenia. The family physician treating him diagnosed him as being bipolar with occasional psychotic episodes, and began prescribing Jeremy anti-psychotic drugs. His doctor transferred his continuing treatment to a psychiatrist.

During the period prior to his arrest, Jeremy was receiving weekly psychiatric treatment as an outpatient.

Jeremy was on his way to his aunt Connie Lum Perez’s home just a few blocks from his own house that fateful evening in August of 2009 when he was picked up by three Lathrop Police officers on suspicion of being drunk. He was walking with his dog when it happened. As has been reported in the news media, he was subsequently taken to San Joaquin County Jail where he was kept overnight. He was released the following morning and was never seen alive again. His decomposing body was found three days later floating in the San Joaquin River approximately two miles from the county jail. Subsequent reports indicated that Jeremy, who was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, was suffering a psychotic episode when he was arrested and charged with public intoxication.

Following his tragic death, the Lum family decided to turn their heartbreak and suffering into a positive legacy that will keep Jeremy’s memory alive. Spearheaded by Connie Perez Lum, and along with Jeremy’s mother, aunts, uncles and other extended family as well as untold number of people in the community, Justice For Jeremy was launched. Its mission is to “promote positive awareness and to bring effective change in the treatment those living with mental illness.”

For more information on how to join Justice For Jeremy and spread the word, and to find out how you can support this cause, visit or look it up on Facebook under Justice For Jeremy.