An unidentified man was shot to death following an argument that devolved into a fistfight in Frank Ogawa Plaza this afternoon, on the one-month anniversary of the Occupy Oakland encampment. According to several witnesses, the victim was shot at least twice in the head in Frank Ogawa Plaza near the Sankofa Boutique and Western Federal Credit Union. The man collapsed several feet in front of an entrance to the 12th Street-City Center BART station, where he was first treated by Occupy Oakland medics and then emergency medical personnel.
The incident started when an altercation between two groups of young men broke out near the medic tent at Occupy Oakland. Emma, a camper who did not want her last name to be used, said she saw a large group of people clustered around two feuding groups, trying to defuse the situation. Shortly thereafter, a fight broke out and spilled over from the encampment to a sidewalk area in front of the Western Federal Credit Union. Al, a homeless veteran who has slept at Ogawa Plaza for the past month, said he saw a group of young men chasing another man run by him, then heard four to six shots.
According to Interim Oakland Police Chief Howard Jordan, the shooting victim died from his wounds at Highland Hospital. No arrests have been made, and no weapons have been recovered, Jordan said. Several campers did not recognize the shooting victim. There are conflicting reports as to whether the dead man had ties to the camp.
Chief Jordan’s remarks to reporters were interrupted by campers calling for streetlights in Ogawa Plaza to be turned back on. Half of the lights around Ogawa Plaza were out on Tuesday and the entire area around the camp was dark yesterday evening. Jordan said the lights would be turned back on soon.
Michael Sampson, who has been with Occupy Oakland since its first day, said that while the timing of the shooting on Occupy Oakland’s month anniversary was odd, he could feel a change in the camp’s atmosphere recently. “Everything has gotten really tense over the past few days,” Sampson said, citing numerous fights, thefts and robberies that took place in the camp this week (on Wednesday evening, a bag containing the media team’s laptop was stolen out of the media tent, one of five bag thefts that evening).
This will have been the fifth murder in Oakland since October 30th. Oakland Police are still waiting on the cause of death of a woman found dead in the 1600 block of East 22nd Street earlier this morning by a person walking their dog. Police are asking anyone with information about the Ogawa Plaza shooting or any of the other recent homicides in Oakland to contact the Major Crimes Unit at (510) 238-3529.
Oakland politicians took the shooting as yet another opportunity to urge the occupiers to leave Ogawa Plaza. Councilmember Larry Reid was on the scene of the shooting, and said that the camp was creating a dangerous atmosphere in downtown Oakland. “This camp is attracting an element that’s adding to the problem that already exists,” said Reid.
Occupy Oakland participants claimed the shooting was symptomatic of Oakland’s entrenched problem with violent crime. Mayor Jean Quan issued a statement this evening that cited the murder as conclusive evidence that Occupy Oakland must come to an end.
Her full statement is as follows:
“Tragically, a young man was shot at 14th and Broadway tonight. But whether a murder occurs here or at 98th and International, I call on all Oaklanders to demand peace and reject violence anywhere. Whether this incident is related to the encampment, or is an unrelated act, it is unacceptable.
We heard that fights early in the day were broken up by people on Frank Ogawa Plaza.
Tonight’s incident underscores the reason why the encampment must end. The risks are too great. We need to return OPD resources to addressing violence throughout the city. It’s time for the encampment to end. Camping is a tactic, not a solution.
I call on the community to be united in the need for the camp to close. I am calling on campers to leave voluntarily. We have sent additional outreach workers tonight and made additional shelter beds available.
Our Measure Y outreach workers are reaching out to offer additional services. City Team Ministries, 722 Washington St., has beds for men, and for women, Crossroads Shelter, 7515 International Blvd. We appreciate the service workers at the Interfaith Tent who are also providing outreach to the homeless.
We need a peaceful resolution to the encampment. The campers need to leave voluntarily. I call on the community to be united around a peaceful resolution.”