"As a transformation center, these are the things that we are trying to interrupt, these cycles of violence, these cycles of poverty," said Sikander Iqbal with Youth Uprising. Iqbal and Ali Knight are on a mission to transform one of Oakland's toughest neighborhoods. "Here in East Oakland, we're at the epicenter of violence. Young people are always at risk of violence in the streets every day," Knight said.
The impact of that violence hit these men like a fist when at a press conference Tuesday, Oakland police Chief Howard Jordan, announced that five boys, two as young as 14, the oldest 16, had been arrested in the killing of 34-year old paramedic Quinn Boyer, the same young people they work to save.
"To sort of serve as mirrors and models of what young men can become," Knight said. As leaders at community based "Youth Uprising," they believe that "mirror" is best used when making a connection early on. "If we're not doing work to address the systems and the environment, then our work's only going to be able to go so far," Iqbal said.
Boyer was shot after leaving his parent's home in the Oakland Hills. Police believe that after he was hit, he lost control of his car. His blue Honda went over a median strip, took out a tree, and crashed dozens of feet away into a ravine. Police have not said why Boyer was targeted but say the crime may have been random.
Police were led to the teens because of an abandoned car found the next day near Horace Mann Elementary School in East Oakland, only miles from where Boyer was shot. A school district police officer helped identify the teens through surveillance video. "I am deeply, deeply concerned by the fact that the persons responsible for this man's murder range in the age from 14 to 16-years-old," Jordan said.
"We were all disheartened to know that they were youngsters. They were children," Homeowners Association President Sandi Bethune said. The fact that the teens were friends and that they targeted a complete stranger has transformed the quiet neighborhood overnight. "When it's random, that means it could have been one of us or one of our loved ones," Bethune said.
None of the five boys have been identified. The Alameda County district attorney's office is expected to charge them and release their names on Thursday.