Gun battle leaves cousin of Raiders' Davante Adams dead, sends children running in East Palo Alto

EAST PALO ALTO, Calif. (KGO) -- Residents of East Palo Alto gathered Wednesday evening to take back a park beloved by children and families.

Residents were caught in Tuesday's crossfire, as two groups shot at each other, leaving one man dead and three others wounded.

Police say 33 shots were fired, starting around 6 p.m. Tuesday evening at Jack Farrell Park on Fordham Street as children were playing tag and a church baseball team was practicing for an upcoming game.

Interim Police Chief Jeff Liu said four shooters were involved, two each from what appeared to be rival groups. Their identities and the motive are still unknown.

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It will be difficult for the estimated 60 people who were at the park to erase what they saw and heard.

"We heard like four big shots, then boom, boom, boom... boom," said East Palo Alto resident Francisco Daytan, who lives behind the park.

A girl was playing tag with her cousins as one of them was taking cell phone video when gunfire broke out. One of the shooters was only 10 to 15 feet away from her. In the video, shared anonymously to ABC7 News, you see the girl running away toward the baseball field, clearly scared and yelling, "Help me!"



The girl was not hurt, but the team and spectators where she was seeking shelter from the hail of bullets were also under attack with bullets flying in different directions. Some dodged them by hiding under the bleachers. One of them, an adult man, was grazed by a bullet to the head. He did not require hospitalization.

Residents and city leaders were back at Jack Farrell Park on Wednesday evening, only 24-hours after the deadly gunfight.

Vigil organizer Mele K. Latu told ABC7 News, that she hoped the gathering would reestablish a sense of safety at the popular city park.

"We don't want this sort of gun violence to continue within our community," Latu said. "It's not welcome here. We're not going to stand for it, and we're gonna stand up as a community."

The shooting marks the city's first homicide of the year.

Police said the shooting was targeted, not random. Ralph Fields, Jr., 34, of East Palo Alto was shot. He died later at the hospital. Fields was paroled last year after serving two years in state prison on conspiracy charges during a major gang sweep in 2014.

He was the first cousin of NFL wide receiver Davante Adams, who's making headlines as he joins the Las Vegas Raiders from Green Bay Packers.

Last spring, Adams donated fitness equipment for the park, talking to ABC7 sports anchor Chris Alvarez about giving back to the city where he grew up. It was making a difference for East Palo Alto families, who enjoyed using the park.

Other relatives described Fields as a family guy.

His cousin, Camellia Pittman said he was, "Always smiling, very friendly. I mean, every time I'd see him, he was like, 'What's up, cuz?' Give me a hug. And... just a cool guy."

As the community grieved in private on Wednesday, Latu said residents are hurting, but explained they're also resilient.

"East Palo Alto is going to continue to be better, not just for ourselves, but because our future is our children, it's our young people," she said. "And so we want to ensure that their safety and their future is attainable."

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Latu said the vigil was important because the community needed a safe space.

"We lost a community member yesterday, and it's really affecting a lot of us," she said. "I thought, no better way than to come back to the park to reestablish to this community that your leaders and your community members are working hard to make sure that our parks, our schools and our community are safe."

Latu continued, "We aren't waiting for someone else to come and give us an opportunity- we're gonna take it ourselves. So we wanted to bring together this community. We have a rich history of just being there for one another, so this was just another opportunity for us to come together, band together."

Police said they initially recovered about 40 shell castings at the scene.

At a Wednesday afternoon news conference, Pastor Paul Bains said of the shooters, "They broke street code, shooting where children and families were."

So many life-long residents privately shared with ABC7 News how they had seen the city improve from its murder capital reputation when they were growing up in the 1990s. They had hoped their kids, the next generation, wouldn't experience such violence. Now they're not so sure.

"You put other people and families at risk" with a shooting incident like this, said East Palo Alto native Jaime Martinez. "It just sucks. Will it have a chilling effect? Maybe."

The East Palo Alto City Council has scheduled a special session for 6 p.m. Thursday so the community can come together and get an update on the police investigation.

Faith-based organizations, along with the city and county, say they will connect those traumatized by the shooting to assistance programs for adults and children.

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