Two men were shot, one of them fatally, late Thursday night in East Oakland, and the double shooting followed two other fatal shootings earlier in the day.
Oakland police are investigating three separate shooting incidents that join a spate of violent crime that has already included 84 homicides in 2020 — 26 more than had occurred at this time last year in the city.
The first killing on Thursday happened on Grizzly Peak (as mentioned here). The male victim, who has not yet been identified, was found suffering from a gunshot wound in a turnout on the 2400 block of Grizzly Peak Boulevard at around 9:10 a.m. He was pronounced dead at the scene.
The second victim, as KPIX reports, was found on the 2200 block of 13th Avenue in Oakland. Police were called to the scene on a report of a deceased person in a vehicle. The male victim was found "in a state of decomposition," at 2:20 p.m. on Thursday, suggesting that the death had occurred much earlier. The cause of death has not been given, and the victim has not yet been identified.
At 11:50 p.m., Oakland police responded to a ShotSpotter report on the 1100 block of 62nd Avenue. As the East Bay Times reports, officers found two men suffering from gunshot wounds, one of whom, a 44-year-old, was pronounced dead at the scene.
A 54-year-old man was taken to the hospital and said to be in stable condition.
Police say the two men knew each other, and both lived in the area. A reward of up to $15,000 is being offered by OPD and Crime Stoppers of Oakland for information leading to the arrest of the shooter.
The three shootings come at a time of high tension on the streets of Oakland and an unusually high rate of violent crime. There have been 10 more killings in the city this year to date than in all of 2019 — last year's homicide count in Oakland was 74, this year's stands at 84, with 15 of those in September and five in the last month.
Oakland's Interim Police Chief Susan Manheimer attributes the spike in violence to the pandemic and a "perfect storm" of economic, social, and health challenges.
High-school football coach Joe Bates concurs with that, speaking to the New York Times this week. He points to the death of one his star athletes, 16-year-old Aaron Pryor, who was shot in broad daylight in a driveway one Sunday in September.
"It was Covid that really killed this kid," Bates told the paper, pointing to the lack of structure in these students' lives since the pandemic took them out of school and out of their normal routines. In normal times, Pryor would have been at 7 a.m. study halls with his fellow football players, going to three-hour practices every day and playing games at night. Instead he and his peers have been left back in a world of street justice, petty beefs, tribal wars, mistaken identities, and all the other reasons that kids get shot in America's cities.
The Council on Criminal Justice found that homicides spiked 53 percent across 20 cities over the summer, and the causes of the spike are likely several — including an increase in gun ownership.
Guillermo Cespedes, who head Oakland's Department of Violence Prevention, tells the Times that the pandemic has also put a stop to the meetings with victims families that his department conducts, in an effort to prevent retaliatory killings.
In a June report on the upticks of violence being seen around the country, Thomas Abt, a senior fellow at the Council on Criminal Justice, suggested another factor playing into the trend: growing distrust of the police.
"As legitimacy [of law enforcement] drops, the people in these communities simply don't use the criminal justice system to mediate conflicts and instead turn to violence," he said, pointing to this spring's George Floyd protests. "We saw a significant increase in homicides after the unrest in Ferguson, Baltimore, Chicago and other places."
A recent study by researchers at UC Davis estimates that 110,000 Californians bought guns this year because they fear for the destabilizing effects of the pandemic. Whether that has put more guns in neighborhoods where much of the violence is occurring is not clear, but the OPD says they have recovered more than 1,000 firearms this year, 40-percent more than by this time last year.
"These are particularly high-stress times," says Professor Nicole Kravitz-Wirtz, the lead author of the UC Davis study, speaking to the Times. "When you add a firearm into those situations it adds particularly fatal risk."
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