Oakland youth football club looking for new place to practice after getting caught in gunfire twice

ByTim Johns KGO logo
Tuesday, September 5, 2023
Oakland youth football club looking for safer place to practice
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The East Bay Panthers youth football team looking for a new place to practice after getting caught in gunfire twice in Oakland.

OAKLAND, Calif. (KGO) -- A nightmare situation unfolding for the East Bay Panthers in Oakland. Late last month, as the youth football organization was practicing at Verdese Carter Park, a gunfight broke out right outside the park's entrance.

"It sounded like a war zone. There were so many shots that rang out. It was like people were shooting back and forth. Kids were very frantic," said Tamu Lopez.

Lopez is the treasurer of the group and has two kids who play with the Panthers.

She says as if the first experience wasn't bad enough, at the next practice, it got even worse.

MORE: Oakland gun violence continues to rise despite new efforts to combat it

"Then all of a sudden people came on the field, running behind each other shooting. Before they were off the field. This time they were running through the field with handguns, " Lopez said.

Lopez says after happening two times in a row, many in the organization are devastated and fear for their safety.

"I have PTSD. My 10-year-old had three nightmares the first night to where he had to sleep in the bed with me," said Lopez.

Now, the Panthers are trying to find a new, safe place to practice, and raising money through a GoFundMe Page.

MORE: OPD officer to be assigned to all pee wee football games, practices after shooting at school field

One option could be Madison Park Academy near Sobrante Park.

"The only issue is that with the city of Oakland Parks and Recreation, we have to have money to be able to rent out parks," said Lopez.

Lopez says most of the kids on the Panthers come from underserved communities without a lot of extra money.

She tells me part of the appeal of the organization is to give members a chance at a normal childhood.

MORE: 'A hard moment in time': Mayor Thao responds to spike in Oakland crime

"Football gives them not only a community of family that loves them, but it gives them a place to eat when they don't have money. A place to have social advantages that they wouldn't normally have," said Lopez.

While Lopez says she's angry that the city of Oakland is facing the current spike in violence, she knows one thing is for certain.

That the kids are worth fighting for.

"Somebody needed to stand up for these kids. And if I don't advocate for them, I don't know who else will."

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