East Oakland neighbors packed the intersection of 64th Avenue and International Boulevard Tuesday evening to mourn the three-year-old boy who was shot and killed during a drive-by shooting on Monday.
Over a loudspeaker, pastors, neighbors and city officials voiced anger over the violence that continues to plague their community and left Carlos Nava dead.
“It takes an animal to take the life of a three-year-old baby on an urban street in the middle of the day,” Police Chief Anthony Batts said, gripping the microphone. “I’ve had enough. It’s time to take a stance.”
Neighbors, still shaken by Monday’s events, took turns kneeling down to the sidewalk memorial of lit candles and stuffed animals next to a large photo of Nava. Many said they don’t feel safe walking during the day anymore, even to run simple errands.
“We’re tired of the violence,” said Kareen Hunter, who lives a couple of blocks away. “It’s every other day, we’re hearing about shootings and it’s sickening. Kids and parents can’t go the grocery store or walk their dogs. We don’t feel safe.”
Three-year-old Carlos was with his family outside a grocery store early Monday afternoon on International Boulevard, police said, when one of the over dozen bullets fired from a car during a drive-by shooting struck him. He was taken to Children’s Hospital in Oakland, where he was pronounced dead.
The intended victims, two adult men, were also hit by the gunfire but survived with non-life threatening injuries, police said. The boy was not related to them and has no other connection to them, according to police.
On Wednesday morning, police spokesperson Cynthia Perkins said investigators believe the shooting may have been a result of gang activity in the area. In an email, Perkins said an arrest was made on Tuesday but it is not yet considered related to the shooting of Nava.
Batts said multiple police agencies across the East Bay, as well as the Alameda County Sherriff’s Office and federal agencies have been checking multiple locations for potential suspects. “This case has struck a nerve,” Batts said. “It’s struck a nerve with our community, it struck a nerve with law enforcement, and you’re seeing a major response.
Several news sources have reported that two arrests were made in Pittsburg, but Batts did not confirm those reports. He said that within the next 24 to 36 hours law enforcement will have all of their suspects in custody.
Batts also said there have been no shootings since Monday afternoon because of the extra officers out on the street who have been deployed to help with the investigation. “Many people think violence can’t be stopped in Oakland that it’s traditional, that’s been here for a long point of time,” Batts said. “This is clear evidence that if you have the officers out here you can stop the violence. This city can be as safe as any other city.”
At Tuesday night’s vigil, Oakland City Council President Larry Reid agreed with Batts that more police officers are needed but said that residents will have to open their wallets first. “When [Batts] took this job, we started out with 830 officers. We’re down to about 666 officers. If this city is going to be a safe place for us to live and raise our family then we as a city have to determine what it’s going to cost us to do that and how to get there,” Reid said.
In July, the Oakland City Council voted to place an $80-per-year parcel tax on a November ballot that would raise $11 million a year for the next five years to help maintain city services. Money from the tax would be used to fund another police academy and to maintain police staffing levels, in addition to keeping libraries and recreation centers open and restoring some park services.
“If we don’t have a parcel tax that’s passed soon,” Batts said, “we’re not going to have a police academy and we’re going to be addressing this more often.”
Neighbors at Tuesday’s vigil passed out yellow flyers with safety tips and suggestions about how to anonymously report crime and how to mentor an Oakland youth. Batts said he recognizes the importance of community organizing, but it’s not enough. “You don’t want a police state,” he said, “but you want enough [police] to deal with the demand in the city.”