I was getting ready to leave home to interview a trauma surgeon about the impact of gun violence in Oakland when I heard a rapid succession of gunshots.
A few blocks away, another man just barely out of his teens had been shot dead in the street. On Oct. 23, Thomas Cochran, 20, was the second man fatally shot near Foothill Square in Deep East Oakland. He is at least the fourth person shot and killed on the street in that immediate vicinity since June.
A street shrine with teddy bears, balloons, liquor bottles and candles stands near where he died, just two blocks up the road from another shrine in memory of another young man who lost his life in a street shooting.
For months, city and police officials have been telling us that the killing isn't as bad this year. That if it weren't for Oikos -- the April tragedy in which a former nursing student slaughtered seven people -- Oakland would have had fewer homicides this year compared to the same time period last year.
Well, another series of street shootings in East Oakland this past weekend has brought the homicide tally to 106 -- compared to 96 killings last year. Even if you subtract Oikos, we are on target to beat 2011's gruesome tally of 110.
Gov. Jerry Brown has pledged to send California Highway Patrol officers to help Oakland police patrol high-crime neighborhoods. Neither CHP nor the governor's office is saying how many officers Oakland will get. However, with
I don't mean to look a gift horse in the mouth. But how come this promise of help only came after intense pressure from Acts Full Gospel Bishop Bob Jackson during the height of campaign season?
You see, the governor had asked the pastor of one of Oakland's largest and most prominent churches to address the congregation as part of his effort to build support for Proposition 30, the $6.8 billion ballot measure that would raise funds for education.
Standing in the pulpit, Brown reminded the crowd that he had a house in Oakland. He said he was "watching over Oakland" and that he saw "a little trouble out there."
Brown gave his pitch for Proposition 30 and was preparing to leave the stage when Jackson buttonholed him.
Jackson told the governor that Oakland was "under siege from shootings and homicides." He asked Brown to declare a state of emergency to help Oakland get state assistance to combat escalating violence.
Jackson said he put Brown on the spot because city officials haven't made public safety a priority and that there is a lot of talk, but very little action.
"You have more than 100 people who have died, then you have the ones who were wounded that nobody even talks about," Jackson said. "We're talking about some staggering figures."
I agree that no one in the city's elected leadership is taking a long view of the public safety crisis toward developing a comprehensive crime-reduction strategy.
Operation Ceasefire, which targets certain violent offenders, officially launched Oct. 18. Yet it is only one tool designed to reduce street shootings among certain groups in East Oakland. It has nothing to do with the rest of the city, though some city officials are trying to seize upon it as the latest magical fix since the now-discredited "100 block plan" went up in flames.
City officials have plans for four police academies. The problem is those graduates will barely keep up with attrition. There is no serious conversation about how Oakland can increase the dangerously low number of sworn officers in a city with these high levels of violence.
Police Chief Howard Jordan recently told the City Council that there was no citywide plan for tackling the violent crime surge because of a lack of resources.
There is no excuse for Oakland officials' failure to produce a violence-reduction strategy when people are dying on the streets of this city week in and week out.