A South Berkeley birthday party for a 15-year-old turned lethal Saturday night after the host tried to relieve a heavily tattooed man of a black pistol.
Aderian “Dre” Gaines, 36, died from a gunshot at his home in the 1500 block of Prince Street. A friend of the dead man’s, a 35-year-old identified only as “Nat,” was shot in the arm.
Berkeley Police spokesperson Officer Ed Galvan said reports of gunshots began flooding the city’s emergency dispatch center at 9:37 p.m. Arriving officers said between 75 and 100 youths were leaving the scene as they arrived.
“Dre was struck twice in the chest,” said Natasha Jackson, a neighbor and family friend who was helping to host the party. “The paramedics said one of the bullets grazed his heart.”
“He was a hero,” said Afeni Gaines, the slain man’s spouse. “He died protecting the children.”
It was the city’s third murder of the year, and the second stemming from a teenage party. Juan Ramos, an 18-year-old from El Cerrito, died in a Feb. 10 stabbing at an unsupervised party in the 700 block of Contra Costa Avenue, and Keith Stephens, 24, was fatally shot on Feb. 19 in the 1200 block of Carrison Street.
Police have arrested no suspects in any of the slayings.
Jackson said the incident began when the gunman arrived at the party with a group of 11 or 12 younger men.
“He said if we didn’t let him in, he would kick down the door. I went and got Dre. He said he wouldn’t let them in for free. After he searched them, he took their money and let them in. He has a good heart,” Jackson said. “I didn’t have a good feeling, so I followed them into the back.”
During the search, Jackson saw a collection of designs inked on the older man’s body.
“He had a West Oakland tattoo on his forearm, he also had a tattoo of a pistol and some dragons, and there was a basketball on his side. They were all high off of something, walking through and mugging everybody. I had a funny feeling, so I followed them,” she said.
Jackson said she followed the older man, who had identified himself as a 29-year-old North Oakland resident, into the kitchen, and as he was dancing with his arms raised, she saw a pistol tucked into his waistband.
“It was an all-black nine,” she said, referring to a nine-millimeter semi-automatic, a popular handgun caliber.
“I went and got Dre and he followed me back into the kitchen. I turned on the light and Dre grabbed him. I lifted up his shirt and Dre took the gun and walked him toward the door. Then this young fellow grabbed the pistol and ran out, and Dre followed him. Then I heard a shot, and Feni (Afeni’s nickname) calling, ‘My husband’s been shot. My husband’s been shot.”
The gunman had come back into the house and confronted Gaines in the bedroom at the front of the house.
Afeni Gaines, who witnessed the shooting, said she begged the gunman not to kill her husband. “Then the guy said, ‘Bitch, you better shut up before I smoke you.’”
“Nat” was shot seconds later, and fell down the stairs at the rear of the house, where paramedics later found him. He was taken to Eden Medical Center in Castro Valley, said Berkeley Fire Department Deputy Chief David Orth.
Jackson and Afeni Gaines said police arrived within moments of the shooting, but an ambulance didn’t arrived for what Jackson estimated as 20 to 30 minutes.
“I kept telling them to call an ambulance,” Jackson said.
“I’m yelling at the children, ‘Call the ambulance! Call the ambulance,’” said Afeni Gaines.
But Orth said paramedics were on the scene in less than 10 minutes. While one team attended to Gaines, a second attended to the injured man, who was in the back yard, Orth said.
“I can understand why it seemed longer,” Orth said.
Police and Fire Department logs show that paramedics were dispatched at 9:40 and arrived on the scene at 9:45.
After determining that Gaines was dead—a finding paramedics can make under county law—the coroner assumed jurisdiction.
Gaines’s body remained in the bedroom where he was killed until 6 a.m. Sunday.
For 13-year-old Wilesha Jones, Saturday night’s tragedy was the second time she’d lost a father to a gunman. Her birth father, Willie Jones, had been slain in Oakland’s Bushrod Park when she was a year old.
“He had seen a shooting and he was going to testify,” said Afeni Gaines. “They knew it, and they killed him. It’s still unsolved.”
Jackson, a close family friend and Prince Street neighbor, said Saturday’s party was the fourth such event held at the Gaines’s home.
“We wanted something safe for kids to do,” she said.
“We charge $2 to get in, 50 cents for sodas and 75 cents for hot dogs, or a dollar if they want some chili on it,” Jackson said.
Attendees had to sign in, and strict quotas were set for different communities because of rivalries that could turn violent. “We have them sign in by which set they’re from—North Oakland, West Oakland, Berkeley, and so on,” said Jackson. “We had them all.”
Police have taken possession of the records.
Galvan said anyone who gives a party for a large number of teens should follow some basic rules.
“If you’re hosting a party, you shouldn’t let anyone in you don’t know,” he said. “You also shouldn’t let in anyone who seems to be intoxicated. You need to limit the size of the party and you need to have a guest list. And you shouldn’t promote the party by text messaging or by emails.”
Galvan said announcements of Saturday night’s party spread by text messages.
Charging admission for parties without a business license is also a violation of city code, he said. “As soon as you start charging, you need a business license, although as I understand it, they were only charging $2 to cover costs.”
Jackson said quotas were set to keep the numbers in balance and prevent any one group from dominating.
But the arrival of the tattooed man and his group of a dozen or so companions threw off the balance.
“That’s why my dad was killed,” said Wilesha Gaines. “There were too many West Oakland people.”
“The guys who came were new,” said Afeni Gaines. “We thought we’d give them a chance.”
All guests were searched before they could enter the house, a modest two-story Victorian a half-block east of Sacramento Street.
While most of the guest were teens, the gunman said he was 29, and claimed he had arrived to look after his sons, said Jackson.
“I don’t know where the gun came from,” she said. “I don’t know how they got it in.”
“My dad’s a hero,” said Wilesha. “If he didn’t take the gun, something worse would’ve happened. He was just here and now he’s gone. He was a good dad.”
Afeni Gaines said she would be moving from the Prince Street home. “We moved in last February. We’re moving from this house. God knows we can’t stay here. But we love Berkeley, and we’ll continue to live in Berkeley.”
Galvan said investigators are currently contacting people who attended the party, and he asked anyone who attended and those with possible information about the shootings to contact homicide investigators at 510- 981-5900.