This is an excerpt from reporter Scott Johnson's blog, which focuses on the effects of violence and trauma on the community. Go to www.oaklandeffect.com for updates on his reporting and www.insidebayarea.com/oakland-hotspot for updates from the Oakland Hotspot.
I was sitting on my front porch tonight, enjoying a beer with a friend, when a series of pops rang out. There were at least 15 to 20 in the first burst. Then silence.
"That's gunfire," my friend said.
A short moment later another burst rang out, shorter, but more intense, somehow. There must have been another 15 or 20 this time, as well. The shots sounded like they were coming from right outside our house.
As it turned out, they were.
We sat there for a minute and then decided to go check it out. Within minutes, we heard sirens, then saw lights, and a few moments later patrol cars started showing up. Police quickly cordoned off the intersection of 50th and Melrose as people from all the surrounding houses began pouring out into the streets. The immediate reaction was anger, astonishment and, sadly, a kind of familiarity.
Immediately people began exchanging ideas about what might have happened. A woman said she saw someone crouching behind a van and firing repeatedly at another person, or group of people, down the street closer to where we were standing, at the intersection.
As of this writing, it's still not clear to me whether anyone died or was injured. But people started talking right away about what might have happened. There were plenty of theories but I'm not going to report them all right now, since I don't want to place anyone in danger.
"I was scared out of my mind," one man said.
"I was ready to get into the bathtub," said another.
One man who lived down the road on 50th said his car, which was out in the street, was shot up repeatedly. He, like everyone I spoke to, asked that I not use his name.
One man said, "Man, I've lived here since I was 4, this is a nice little neighborhood, this stuff ain't supposed to happen here."
But the man whose car was shot up said, "You know, I've lived here a long time and I've always heard gunshots but they've always been kind of far away, and never this many. I've never heard that many shots so close to my home before."
As the police cars gathered, officers began placing little yellow cones on the ground where they had recovered shells, and soon enough there were two yellow pods of cones in the middle of the intersection. I counted at least 30 cones and I think there might be well over 40.
Police were also interviewing all the neighbors. The ones I spoke to seemed to have heard what I had -- the shots, the dogs, the sirens -- but no one seemed to have seen much of anything.
A lot of people talked about the weapons that were used. One guy said it was automatic gunfire. Someone else said semi-automatic. Whatever they had, the people in this neighborhood were angry.
"We don't want them here," one man said. "This ain't right."
I've heard a lot of gunfire in my life. What I heard tonight was very clearly an all-out gunbattle. It wasn't just a shot or two in passing. It was sustained, deliberate. But at first glance it also seems to have been indiscriminate. Cars far down from the intersection were hit. I'm guessing there was little regard for who, or what else, might have been hit in the crossfire.
In the aftermath, I learned what happened. Earlier in the evening, a group of people had gathered in front of an apartment for a vigil for Ceejay Reed, 19, who was gunned down in a drive-by shooting in North Oakland in April. A 19-year-old man from Antioch, perhaps attending the vigil, was shot to death in the exchange. At this point, it looks like Tuesday night's shooting may have been linked to that April shooting.
Contact Scott Johnson at 510-208-6429 or firstname.lastname@example.org.