'This has to stop': Oakland mayor, police chief plead with community as city records 100th homicide

KGO logo
Wednesday, September 22, 2021
Oakland records 100th homicide of 2021
EMBED <>More Videos

Oakland police responded to the city's 100th homicide of the year Monday morning, with a total of 10 people killed in just the last seven days.

OAKLAND, Calif. (KGO) -- Monday marked Oakland's somber milestone, the 100th homicide of the year.

With several months in the year left, the loss of life is nearly that of the total number of homicides Oakland had in all of 2020 -- 109. At this time last year, the city had reported 70 homicides.

RELATED: 3 dead in separate Oakland shootings that happened minutes apart

"So much violence, so many guns, so many senseless lives lost, If this is not a calling to everybody in this community that there is a crisis I don't know what is," said Oakland Police Chief LeRonne Armstrong Monday.

In just the past week, Oakland's police chief said the city recorded 10 homicides.

"We can be vocal about certain things, but I just don't understand why this community cannot be vocal about 100 lives lost?" the chief said. "We can scream and yell about anything the police department does wrong but in this time, we can't speak up about what's plaguing all of us -- and that's gun violence. I just ask that everybody come together collectively to say that this has to stop."

Timeline of Oakland homicides

Over the weekend, Oakland police investigated three separate gun-related homicides in the span of 13 hours. The 100th homicide of the year occurred Monday morning.

Homicides this year have included a deadly arson in April that killed a man and his 1-year-old daughter. The crime, according to police, was retaliatory and connected to a fatal shooting at a nearby liquor store.

EXCLUSIVE: Oakland woman demands change after whole family robbed in separate violent attacks

In May, a 16-year-old woman and 19-year-old woman were killed in a party bus shooting while celebrating a 21st birthday.

Also in May, a man was shot and killed a block from the Oakland Police Department.

On August 28, 23-year-old Hassani Bell was struck by 16 bullets as he sat in a barber shop chair.

Tori Bell, his sister, said, "He was not a statistic. He was not involved in criminal activity. It's heartbreaking and now my family, we have to relocate because we don't know who did this and we don't feel safe in the Bay Area."

Violence escalated by COVID-19 pandemic

Many believe access to guns is at the heart of much of the violence in Oakland that has worsened so drastically during the pandemic.

Reverend George Cummings with Faith in Action East Bay said a decade ago, gun violence was linked to gangs and drugs. Now he says it's rooted in the stress caused by the pandemic.

"Homicides are happening in homeless encampments, homicides are happening in the home as a consequence of domestic violence, and homicides are happening because of a personal interaction- that is someone took somebody's parking spot or somebody beat somebody to the gas pump and it seems people are using guns to resolve conflicts," Cummings said.

VIDEO: In wake of city's 100th homicide, Oakland reverend points to pandemic stress

Asked why homicides are again on the rise in Oakland after there had been several steady years of decline, Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf also pointed to the pandemic. She said resources have been stretched thin.

"Once the pandemic happened many of our tools were taken away from us, and a sense of desperation, a huge increase in the purchase of fire arms, and the flooding of our streets with untraceable ghost guns," the mayor said.

Schaaf specifically mentioned Oakland's Ceasefire Program, which provided social support and resources to people most at-risk of committing a gun-related homicide. She said the program had been successful in helping Oakland cut gun violence in half and sustaining it for five years.

"Right now the tools that allowed us to use the last resort are not available and that must change," she added. "We have to stop this bloodshed."

Oakland PD staffing at a 10-year low

Chief Armstrong says OPD currently has 695 officers, a severe staffing shortage.

RELATED: Oakland Mayor Schaaf confirms LeRonne Armstrong will be city's next police chief

"This is the smallest the department has been in nearly 10 years, and its also the highest level of violence we've seen in nearly 10 years," said Chief Armstrong Monday.

At an event in Oakland on Tuesday, Mayor Schaaf called the city's homicide milestone "heartbreaking" and told reporters that she is committed to ending violence in the city.

"This is not just 100 lives lost, this is 100 groups of children that don't have a loved one, a mentor, a mom or dad, an aunt or uncle," Schaaf said. "This a hundred groups of friends. Our community is so devastated by the expansiveness of this loss."

Schaaf said Oakland needs to add staffing to its police department.

"I've been very clear: Oakland needs more police officers," she said. "And Oakland has demonstrated that it is committed to the type of policing, continued reforms that our residents demand and deserve."

According to police data, East Oakland has had the most homicides in 2021.

Back in April, when Oakland was at 44 homicides for the year, the Mercury News reported most of the victims were Black or Latino men in their 20s or 30s.

"We've been successful arresting those that have committed homicides in our city but that is not the outcome we are looking for, we would much rather people put down guns and not cause this violence in our," said Chief Armstrong.

A plea from the police chief and department tasked with making Oakland a safer place.

WATCH: Mayor Libby Schaaf says Oakland needs more officers as city grapples with 'heartbreaking' homicide rate

Sharp difference in violent crime between Oakland and other Alameda Co. cities

The Alameda County Sherriff's office says Oakland is experiencing significantly more violent crime compared to the rest of the county. They say of the 114 homicides in the county, 100 are in Oakland, and just 14 are in the other cities combined. They say Oakland sees more high risk issues like gang activity, drug trafficking and homelessness.

"It's not nearly as high," said Alameda County Sherriff Gregory Ahern. "We have a large problem with these issues in the county, and a lot of it is in Oakland."

RELATED: Gov. Newsom approves additional law enforcement support for Oakland

He believes it would help to give more funding not just to community programs designed to help these issues, but also to the police department so they can help with crime.

"You have to address the gang issue, you have to address the robbery issue, the drug issue and you also have to have to address the response to criminal activity that is on going," Ahern said.

ABC7 News reporters Leslie Brinkley, Melanie Woodrow, Liz Kreutz and Ryan Curry contributed to this report.

Take a look at all of ABC7's Building a Better Bay Area stories and videos here.