Last weekend, Jasvir Singh was shot in broad daylight while driving his ice cream truck on the 9300 block of Peach Street in East Oakland. He was killed only four days after Antonio Ramos, an artist, was shot while painting a mural in West Oakland, also during the daytime.
While the Oakland Police Department has released the photograph of a “wanted suspect” they are searching for in connection with the fatal shooting, and have identified him as 23-year-old Joevan Lopez, they have not disclosed a motivation for the murder.
Singh “was the neighborhood ice cream man, so everybody knew or seen him or heard of him,” said Francisco Flores, an attendance clerk at Elmhurst Community Prep, a middle school several blocks from where Singh was killed.
Residents of the surrounding neighborhood said that they are all too familiar with the effects of crime in their community, and that incidents like this had become normal.
Ray Wong, the general manager of nearby Bay Bridge Auto Body, said that 2015 was “actually one of the better years” for East Oakland in terms of violence, but that it’s “kind of crazy out here all the time.” In order to stay safe while at work, Wong said, he does a lap or two around the block before he comes in “to see who’s around.” He also does free mechanic work in the neighborhood to build ties with local residents.
But Wong hasn’t been able to avoid the effects of crime altogether; last month, he said, a group of men chased a girl inside his shop, where she hid and called the police. A few weeks ago, people “tagged every inch of this building. Our neighbors called the police forty-some times and they never came out,” he said. “On a relatively regular basis, we see SWAT teams come in, a helicopter goes up, and that’s just kind of normal.”
Pastor Jay Patterson, director of the Teen Challenge Center, an addiction treatment center a short walk away from 9300 Peach Street, also didn’t know Singh had been killed. “I see police out here, and they do what they can, but sometimes they just have to choose the crimes that they can,” he said, speaking by phone. “There’s people out here selling drugs with a big bag of rocks wide open in the daylight; they’re not even trying to hide it anymore. For the most part, this area here is kind of forgotten. Even though people are working and trying to turn things around, they get to ‘What’s the use?’ and they give up.”
Patterson has been living in East Oakland since 1998. He said that, one time, while picking his daughter up from school, he saw several people be shot on 90th Street; another time, a man ran into his fence after getting shot across the street; in another incident, someone was shot on the sidewalk behind his house.
Every Saturday, Patterson’s Teen Challenge Center opens its doors, inviting young people in the community to stop by for a meal, basketball, arts and crafts, Bible lessons or playing Xbox. “The shame about it is we’re trying to encourage [students] to do well in school, and they’re like ‘Why should I?’ They don’t think they’re going to make it past 20. They think that if they make it past 25, they’re doing good,” he said.
For many residents, Singh’s death is just one more example of the senselessness of the neighborhood’s violence. A clerk at Harry’s Drive-In liquor store, who asked not to be named, heard about the shooting from a customer. “I’ve been here for basically my whole life,” he said, calling crime in East Oakland “a habit.”
“Youngsters now, they’re going to do the stupidest things over worthless shit,” he continued. “To me, it’s shocking because out of anybody, he’s the ice cream man. He’s the ice cream man. What could he do, for them to shoot him?”