Neighbors and friends of an unarmed East Oakland barber who was killed by Oakland Police Monday night reacted angrily today to the police account of the shooting.
Derrick Jones, 37, was shot to death by two police officers near the corner of Bancroft Avenue and Trask Street after a foot chase. Police say Jones was shot fewer than five times, shortly after fleeing from officers questioning him inside the Kwik Cuts Barbershop, which Jones owned. Police said the officers were responding to a domestic dispute call between Jones, who was on parole for a firearms offense, and a woman at a nearby laundromat on Bancroft Avenue.
Jones took off running, Oakland Deputy Police Chief Jeff Israel said at a press conference Tuesday afternoon. Jones did not respond to commands to halt, Israel said, and instead kept reaching for his waistband. At one point, he said, an officer saw an unspecified metal object in Jones’ hands before he looked over his shoulder toward the officers. The two officers then fired on Jones, Israel said, striking him multiple times. Jones was pronounced dead at the scene, and was unarmed but carrying a metal object, which Israel declined to identify.
But friends and relatives of Jones challenged the Oakland Police version of the shooting, declaring that the barber was a family man who had been shot at least six times in the back.
“This is on the heels of Oscar Grant,” said Kinwood DeVore, a minister at the Church of Christ of West Oakland, where the Jones family worships. DeVore was a Chaplain at the Alameda County Sheriff Department for seven years, and performed almost every invocation for the graduating class of Oakland police officers.
The killing of Oscar Grant, the unarmed man shot to death in January, 2009 by BART Police officer Johannes Mehserle, roiled Oakland again last Friday, when Mehserle received what many regarded as a relatively light two-year sentence after his conviction for involuntary manslaughter. Like Jones, Grant was African American. Mehserle was white; the race of the two officers in the Monday night shooting has not been made public.
“I want to know what kind of training these officers received,” DeVore said. “They are trained to deal with suspects, and I know they are not supposed to pull a gun out unless they feel their life is threatened. Derrick was unarmed. They shot an unarmed man six times. OPD is responsible for whatever these officers did.”
Jones’ relatives, barbershop customers and church members filled the block of his house this morning after the news of his death had spread in the community. After the police press conference, a couple dozen returned to Jones’ street, moving in and out of his parents’ house, to console family members and share stories about Jones, known affectionately as Didi, and what they described as his pleasant sense of humor.
“Me and Didi would barbecue everyday at the barbershop,” Bobby Sanders, Jones’ childhood friend, said while laughing. “We’d always compare each other’s cooking. Every night, we’d call our mamas and get a walk through, a step by step of recipes we wanted to cook up.”
Jones is survived by his sister, Tanya Saheli, brother, Frank Jones, two parents and two year old daughter.
“He was a good father, a hard worker,” Sanders said, holding back tears. “He’d bring his kid to the barbershop everyday while her mama was at work.”
The Jones family was well known in the Public Works department. Derrick’s father was a retired Public Works employee, and his brother still works there. “Everybody knew Didi,” Sanders said. “The Public Works city trucks would always honk when they were going past the barbershop.”
John Noble, 63, a close family friend who worked with Derrick’s father, said of Derrick Jones, “He was a pleasant man. He wasn’t a criminal.”
In the afternoon, Jones’ sister Tanya Saheli, an attorney and recent JFK law school graduate, and her parents said they had already met with John Burris, the attorney who is advising the family of Oscar Grant. “We want to believe justice will be served,” Saheli said. “I know Oscar Grant’s family wanted to believe that, and that didn’t happen.”
The shooting is under investigation by OPD’s Homicide and Internal Affairs units, with an additional investigation being conducted by the Alameda County District Attorney.