OAKLAND -- Chyemil Pierce was a dedicated mother who never hesitated to give of herself for her children, family and friends said.

In the end, Pierce gave everything. Screaming out for her children's safety, she rushed to protect them as bullets flew Monday afternoon along a West Oakland street, saving their lives as she lost her own.

"She was my baby sister," Aushaunti Pierce, Chyemil's sister, said Tuesday, her voice quiet and removed as she attempted to deal with the loss of her sister. "An exceptional mother who'd do anything for her children. So loved."

Chyemil Pierce was shot and killed about 4:45 p.m. as she was trying to get the two children inside her home, in the 2800 block of Chestnut Street, according to police.

Chyemil Pierce was killed Monday afternoon, March 9, 2015, when she was struck by gunfire from a nearby shooting as she tried to get her children to safety
Chyemil Pierce was killed Monday afternoon, March 9, 2015, when she was struck by gunfire from a nearby shooting as she tried to get her children to safety near their West Oakland home, police said. (Pierce Family Photo) (Oakland Police Department)

As Pierce arrived on the street where she had grown up, a group of women began fighting on the street, police said. Soon, men joined the fray, close to where Pierce had parked her car and was walking home with the children.

As the fight escalated, the two sides began firing at each other, police said. Pierce heard the shots ring out and rushed to get her children out of harm's way.

Oakland police Sgt. Michael Cardoza said Pierce was behind the two children, ages 7 and 9, "screaming for them to run" when she was hit by a bullet. "She was just trying to get them to their house safely," Cardoza said. Pierce died at the scene.

Her children were not injured. Pierce's third child, a 1-year-old infant, was not with her at the time.


Two other people, a 16-year-old boy and a 19-year-old man, also were wounded, police said. The 16-year-old was in critical condition Tuesday, and the 19-year-old was reported stable.

Police did not say if the two people wounded were connected to the people involved in the fight or Pierce. No arrests have been made.

Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf called the killing "a tragedy" and said she would continue to focus on improving policing and providing opportunities for youths. "We cannot flourish as a city under siege," she said Tuesday. "We must come together to end the violence."

Aushaunti Pierce said her younger sister was one of three girls and one brother in their family who grew up in West Oakland.

Pierce worked as a human resource specialist at Kaiser Permanente. The company was providing grief counselors and other support services for its employees on Tuesday, said Deniene Erickson, a regional media relations specialist for Kaiser.

"Our hearts go out to her friends and family in the wake of this terrible tragedy," said Erickson, who would not say which Kaiser facility Pierce worked in or how long she'd been with the company, citing privacy issues.

Pierce's two oldest children, a 7-year-old boy and a 9-year-old girl, were enrolled in the first and third grade at Vincent Academy, a charter elementary school in West Oakland.

"She was a beloved member of our community, a wonderful mother, and she'll never be forgotten here at Vincent," Kate Nicol, the school's principal, said.

Oakland Councilwoman Lynette Gibson McElhaney called for stricter gun regulation from Sacramento and Washington and more programs to serve poor children.

"I have almost no words for the enormity of this tragedy," she said Tuesday. "We have to stop these cycles of violence. For me it just underscores how vulnerable we all are."

Aushaunti Pierce said she wants nothing more than justice to be served in her sister's senseless death. She called for the community to speak up in an effort to bring forth the killer, if not for their grieving family then for three children now left without their mother.

"She was just a genuinely good person," she said. "I hurt for her babies, and I pray these senseless killings come to an end."

Officials said another shooting about three hours after Pierce was killed -- very near to Highland Hospital, where both teens had been taken for treatment after the earlier shooting -- was connected to the earlier gunbattle. About 8 p.m. Monday, numerous shots were exchanged outside the front of the, hospital near the intersection of East 31st and Stuart streets, by people associated with the two, police said. No one was injured.

Alameda County sheriff's deputies detained a car and several people near the scene; a spokesman for the department said the people detained were turned over to Oakland police and declined to comment further Tuesday. Oakland police officials would only say that no arrests had been made as of Tuesday afternoon.

The hospital was placed on lockdown, and ambulances were diverted for about 45 minutes, Alameda County Sheriff's Office Sgt. Ray Kelly said.

Pierce's death is the city's 19th homicide of the year. Last year at this time, there were 21 homicides in the city.

Funeral arrangements for Pierce had not been set on Tuesday.

Police and Crime Stoppers of Oakland are offering up to $20,000 in reward money for information leading to the arrest of the shooters in the case. Anyone with information may call police at 510-238-3821 or Crime Stoppers at 510-777-8572.

Contact Harry Harris at hharris@bayareanewsgroup.com. Contact Natalie Neysa Alund at nalund@bayareanewsgroup.com.