Suspect released in Kevin Nishita murder investigation, OPD chief confirms

Nishita's murder was one of 134 homicides in Oakland last year, the most reported since 2006.

Stephanie Sierra Image
Thursday, January 13, 2022
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With a record homicide rate, staffing shortages and silence on the Kevin Nishita murder investigation, OPD discusses priorities for 2022.

OAKLAND, Calif. (KGO) -- A lot of uncertainty looms in 2022 for Oakland as the city starts the year with a record homicide rate, staffing shortages and silence on the Kevin Nishita murder investigation.

In late December, Police Chief LeRonne Armstrong said the department was closing in on a third suspect believed to be involved in Nishita's murder. The veteran police officer was killed while working as a TV news security guard in Oakland in late November.

"Is the third suspect in custody yet?" ABC7's Stephanie Sierra asked.

"No," said Armstrong. "And we haven't had those cases charged yet. I believe we are very close."

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The Chief says one of the two suspects taken into custody believed to be involved in Nishita's murder have since been released. But the department won't identify either suspect or confirm when the released happened.

"I want 2022 to be a safer year for the residents of Oakland," Armstrong said.

Nishita's murder was one of 134 homicides in Oakland last year, the most reported since 2006. Chief Armstrong says his priorities this year are to reduce violent crime and increase staffing.

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"In six months I hope we get as close as we can to our authorized hiring which is 737," Armstrong said, adding he wants to hire more local and female police officers.

To put in perspective, Oakland's police department previously had upwards of 800 police officers on staff roughly a decade ago. As of early January that number is 110 officers short - compounded with more than 50 officer positions cut last year. Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf told ABC7 she's working with city council to unfreeze some of those positions.

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"The freezes that are in place right now are really just to reflect the reality," said Schaaf. "No matter what you put in the budget, when you don't have that many bodies, it really doesn't matter."

Schaaf said Oakland City Council did authorize additional police officer positions to become available as academy classes graduate.

In the meantime, Chief Armstrong says the department will be focused on redeploying resources.

Starting in late January 48 officers will move to East Oakland - an area that accounts for roughly 60 percent of the city's 911 calls.