Keller Avenue is a major thoroughfare to and from the Oakland hills. It leads to some of the city's most affluent neighborhoods.
The picturesque, tree-lined avenue is a popular route for walkers. Some call it "Killer Avenue" because it winds up a steep grade to Skyline Boulevard that leaves walkers exhausted. It is not a place where you hear blaring police sirens or constant gunfire. Nor do you typically see helicopters hovering overhead in search of criminal suspects like you do in flatland neighborhoods just a few freeway exits away in East Oakland.
There has been a scary escalation of burglaries, home invasions and robberies that has led hills residents to install surveillance cameras and hire security patrols. But people don't normally get shot on the street.
Last Tuesday, however, just before noon, someone fatally shot an off-duty Santa Clara County paramedic on Keller. Quinn Boyer, 34, of Dublin, died Thursday afternoon at Highland Hospital.
Boyer was driving down Keller in his Honda Civic hybrid. He had just dropped off his father at his home on Skyline Boulevard after taking him to a doctor's appointment. According to Oakland police, Boyer stopped at a stop sign at Keller and Hansom Drive across from a well-manicured median and marker that announces the entrance to the Sequoyah Hills neighborhood. A man got out of a car and fired a gun point-blank at the Honda. Boyer was struck in the head.
Police say they have no motive. A case of road rage? An attempted robbery or carjacking? Was it random? Or was Boyer targeted?
We don't know. What we do know is, whoever committed this monstrous act is probably still running loose on the streets.
"People up here are scared to death," said one Sequoyah Heights resident.
What kind of city do we live in where a man who earns his living saving other people's lives can be murdered at the drop of a dime? Where a father receives word that the son he just saw has been rushed to the hospital with a bullet to the head?
Parents losing children not just once. But over and over and over again.
"This is so out of hand," says one longtime resident of Ridgemont near the shooting site. "I feel so bad for his family."
How many Coliseums could we fill up with all the family members who have lost loved ones to gun violence in this city? Two days before Boyer was shot, John Sonny Davis, 31, Vittorio Jackson, 37, and a man police had not yet identified were shot and killed.
No matter where we live in Oakland, we cannot escape the madness perpetrated by an infinitesimal percentage of the population. I don't know how we save this city from the insanity. But I do know that holing up behind tall gates and security systems in your mansion on Campus Drive or cowering in fear behind barred windows in your house in East Oakland is definitely not the answer. Whether we live in Rockridge, Lake Merritt, West Oakland or Laurel, we must all find a way to get involved in some way to make our city safer. The violence will not stop just because many of us choose to ignore it.
Judy Thomas' house was burglarized on Christmas Day. She was injured during an attempted purse snatching in 2007. She took a metaphysical view of what had happened and became an ordained minister to do something positive to counteract the negative event. She encourages the rest of us to do the same.
"We live in a very scary time," said Thomas, who is a block captain for one of the streets in Sequoyah Heights. "These things are happening all over Oakland. All any of us can do is be vigilant. Get to know your neighbors and get involved with your neighborhood associations."
No, that won't stop every violent act. But getting residents actively engaged and keeping the pressure on City Hall to produce a public safety plan will go a long way toward making neighborhoods -- and by extension the entire city -- safer.