Police Chief Howard Jordan and Mayor Jean Quan held a press conference Monday afternoon to condemn the recent spate of violence that resulted in four homicides in Oakland last Friday.
Traffic slowed on International Boulevard as dozens of TV news crews gathered in the shadow of the Oakland Police Department’s Mobile Command Unit. Jordan and Quan took turns addressing the crowd in front of a memorial painting dedicated to Carlos Nava, the three-year-old boy who was killed in August, 2011, when a stray bullet struck him.
“We’ve had six murders already this year compared to two last year at this time,” Jordan said. “That is simply unacceptable in this city.”
The most recent string of killings began around 2:30 pm on Friday, January 11. The OPD responded to a call on the 2300 block of E. 17th Street that a 22-year-old unidentified male had been shot multiple times. The victim later died at the hospital.
Just thirty minutes later, at 3:04, police responded to a call at Canon Avenue and Wellington Street, and found a second victim shot to death, a 30-year-old Stockton resident they identified as Larry Lovette.
At 4:15, the OPD responded to a third call about gunshots, this time on the 3400 block of West Street. No victims were found, but one victim, later identified as Eddiebo Rodriguez, was able to get himself to the hospital, where he later died.
The last shooting took place later that night, at 8:15, on the 9400 block of Hillside, where 17-year-old high school senior Ken Harbin was killed.
Jordan said that two of the four murders were associated with two feuding groups who police believe have been responsible for as many as 90 percent of the murders, robberies and shootings that have taken place in Oakland over the last six to eight months. Jordan declined to give details about the shootings because the police are still looking for suspects, but he did say that OPD has learned that the most recent violence was triggered by the death of a young woman.
Although he didn’t provide details about the two groups police believe are responsible for much of the violence, Jordan said the OPD knows “who the people are who are perpetuating this violence. It is probably about 1 to 2 percent of the population.” He said it is now his department’s job to gather “enough intelligence, enough evidence, and enough data” to ensure that those people can be brought to justice so that they do not return to the streets and cause more violence. “We know who the bad guys are. We are focused on getting them,” he said.
Jordan said one person has been arrested in relation to the shootings this weekend, and another search warrant has been issued. Jordan said he has called on US Marshalls to assist in the search for that suspect. In addition, Jordan said, “Since Friday we have recovered 11 weapons that are directly or indirectly involved in incidences from this weekend and from previous murders.” The recovered weapons were mostly handguns, but they also included some AK-47s, according to Jordan.
Before attending the press conference, Jordan visited two scenes where murders took place on Friday, one at the 3400 block of West Street, and the other on Seminary Avenue, in order to talk to victims’ neighbors and community members about the recent violence. “It was a very humbling experience for me,” Jordan said, “because I got to hear firsthand about the fear that they have, and it’s real fear.” Jordan said that several residents had recounted for him the way they had reacted to the gunfire. “People want justice and peace and they want this violence to stop,” he said.
Jordan said he is working on a redeployment plan to temporarily get more Oakland police officers on the streets, as well as an agreement to add fifteen Sherriff’s Department deputies to patrol in Oakland. Jordan said these were only temporary measures because “We don’t have the luxury right now to make this long term.” He added, “We are looking at ways to impact crime with our current resources.” Jordan also said that additional officers will be on the street this weekend, but did not give a specific number.
Quan reaffirmed Jordan’s statements, adding that Oakland has been “acting as if it is in a state of emergency for a while.”
“Each time I have asked the governor for additional support he has given it to us,” Quan said, adding that she will be making a request for additional, unspecified federal support in the coming weeks with Congresswoman Barbara Lee.
“I think the city has reached its tolerance level,” Quan said in reference to the recent spate of homicides. She said she plans on “pulling together a summit of educators, nonprofits, business community, ministers, and law enforcement, to really focus on the most dangerous and most violence, which appears to be mostly juveniles.”
Quan also referred to Vice President Joe Biden’s report on gun violence, which is due out on January 15, and is expected to outline new gun control measures aimed at curbing the availability of many kinds of weapons. “The bottom line is that so many of these guns were not sold in Oakland, were probably not even sold in the state California,” Quan said, referring to the 11 weapons seized by the OPD. “We have to stop these guns from coming into our city and we cannot do that without an national, universal series of reforms.”
Quan said disputes between young people didn’t always “end with a dozen murders.” But, she said, because of the “availability of guns, we have disputes between people that are very young who are totally out of control.” She called for politicians to support Biden’s report and findings.
Newly elected District 5 councilmember Noel Gallo gave an impassioned speech urging the community to retake their streets and provide safety for the children of Oakland. “This is a call for the community to get back to the great city Oakland was. Let’s quit making excuses and demonstrate our love and support for our kids, the future of Oakland,” Gallo said.
Jordan ended his comments by noting that it was “the eve of Martin Luther King’s birthday” and quoting the civil rights leader: “Violence brings only temporary victories. Violence, by creating many more social problems than it solves, never brings permanent peace.”
“My pledge today is to work with the community and work with our law enforcement partners to end the senseless violence that is taking place in our city,” Jordan said.