7 shootings, sideshows, illegal fireworks: 'Nonstop chaos' in Oakland for July 4th, chief says

ByLaura Anthony and J.R. Stone KGO logo
Tuesday, July 6, 2021
4th of July was '12 hours of nonstop chaos,' Oakland chief says
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Oakland's top cop says Fourth of July in his city this year was among the most violent he's seen in more than 20 years on the force.

OAKLAND, Calif. (KGO) -- Oakland's top cop says Fourth of July in his city this year was among the most violent he's seen in more than 20 years on the force.

"We're talking about 12 hours of nonstop chaos," said Oakland Police Chief LeRonne Armstrong.

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Armstrong held a rare holiday press briefing and he wasn't just talking about the illegal fireworks that rained down on his city, but rather the reign of terror, the violence that left at least two people dead and several others critically injured.

"My heart goes out to the families of the victims from last night," said Armstrong. "But celebratory gunfire led to the vast majority of these shootings."

One woman is in grave condition after one of at least seven shootings and a 16-year-old boy was hit in the head by a bullet from "celebratory" gunfire, but is expected to survive.

Another man was found dead with "blunt force" injuries, labeled a suspicious death.

VIDEO: Early morning fire sparks in Oakland near Telegraph and 42nd

"Although we came out prepared to address the fireworks," said Armstrong. "Along with sideshow activity, the violence overtook all of our resources."

The chief said his department ended up doing zero fireworks enforcement.

A massive sideshow involving 300 cars left one man with critical injuries after he was struck by a moving vehicle.

VIDEO: Oakland city leaders seek solutions after violent Fourth of July

Councilmember Noel Gallo says the state, county, and city need to work together. He would like to see legal and organized sideshows at special locations, and would also be in favor of a state law confiscating any car involved in an illegal sideshow, saying he knows the attitude among drivers out there.

"Unless I get some pushback, or I know I'm going to lose my car, I won't change my behavior," says Gallo.

The Oakland Fire Department also responded to numerous fires that in many cases were likely started by fireworks.

Oakland Councilmember Loren Taylor says Fourth of July was another night where there were nearly 100 outstanding 911 calls in East Oakland -- Something not seen in any other part of the city.

"Clearly, we need to bring more resources for nights and weekends, where intensity increases like we saw this past weekend, and that's something that is necessary while we seek to reimagine safety, bring alternatives, etc. We still have to have sufficient resources," says Taylor.

Hundreds gather at massive Oakland sideshow July 4th weekend

In Contra Costa County, firefighters responded to dozens of fires including one here in Martinez that threatened homes.

"I was very upset about the whole thing," said Alan Perry, who lives along Ross Circle in Martinez, where a late-night fire threatened dozens of homes, fire investigators believe it was started by fireworks.

"We had some rowdy neighbors who were setting off fireworks near the house and there was a confrontation," said Perry.

RELATED: Fourth of July fireworks light up foggy San Francisco sky

In all, Contra Costa firefighters tackled more than 50 other fires on the Fourth of July.

"In our view, there is no such thing as a safe or controllable firework, certainly not in these conditions," said Steve Hill, Public Information Officer with the Contra Costa Fire Protection District. "We probably had some of the most dangerous fire conditions on Independence Day holiday than we've had in many years."

Still, incidents were actually down in Contra Costas County, by 40 percent, compared with last Fourth of July.