Fatal Shooting Near Occupy Oakland Apparently Unconnected

By Bay City News
Thursday November 10, 2011 - 09:15:00 PM

A man in his early 20s was fatally shot near the "Occupy Oakland" encampment in downtown Oakland this evening, a police spokeswoman said. 

Officers responded at 4:57 p.m. to the shooting at 14th Street and Broadway, directly in front of the protesters' encampment, although at this time there is no apparent connection between the shooting and the demonstration, police spokeswoman Johnna Watson said. 

"At this time it does not appear to be related," Watson said, but added that the shooting is still under investigation. 

Watson said no suspects are in custody and the victim had not been identified as of 7:30 p.m. 

Nyake Tarmoh, 31, a protester with the Occupy Oakland movement, said he witnessed the shooting while standing in line at the camp's food tent. Tarmoh said he saw six suspicious-looking males, between the ages of 15 and 22, walking around the camp and they appeared to be looking for someone. 

The suspects spotted the victim standing near portable toilets and they ran over, punched him and beat him while he was on the ground, according to Tarmoh. 

Tarmoh said the suspects became aware of the fact that some Occupy Oakland members were watching and stopped.  

The victim got up and was running away from the suspects when one male with dreadlocks and a black hooded sweatshirt pulled out a gun and shot him in the head, according to Tarmoh.  

Tarmoh said he saw two of the suspect run into a BART station, while the shooter ran down Broadway. 

He said camp medics rushed to give the victim first-aid before an ambulance arrived and took him to a hospital. 

Tarmoh also stressed that the shooting was not related to the encampment. "They are not part of the Oakland movement," he said. 

Occupy Oakland members had been planning to hold a party tonight to celebrate its one-month anniversary but have decided to cancel the festivities out of respect for the victim, protesters said. 

Barucha Peller, who is part of the Occupy Oakland encampment, said the shooting happened next to the camp, not in it. 

"The only direct Occupy Oakland involvement was in order to provide emergency first-aid services," she said.  

Motorist Drew Sowyrda was driving west on Telegraph Avenue on his way to the gym when, as he was passing 27th Street, he saw "cop cars driving faster than I've ever seen through the traffic." 

"Right at the junction of Broadway and Telegraph they stopped a white car and pulled out the driver at gunpoint," Sowyrda said. 

He said the male driver was handcuffed and put into a police car, and he overheard police explaining to two female passengers in the car that there had been a shooting. 

He said they began to block off Broadway at that point.  

BART spokesman Jim Allison said the 12th Street station in Oakland was temporarily closed this evening as police searched two trains for possible suspects. 

Some people ran into the station after the shooting and it was initially believed that they were suspects, Allison said. 

However, officials have since determined that those people were "probably just frightened" and wanted to get away, he said. 

The station reopened at around 5:25 p.m. 

Several city officials showed up at the scene after the shooting, including Police Chief Howard Jordan and City Council President Larry Reid, who was among council members who held a news conference Wednesday saying the encampment must go.  

After learning that Occupy Oakland medics had helped the person who was shot tonight, Reid said, "I appreciate their efforts to help save the life of the victim in this situation." 

Although many at the scene insist the shooting wasn't related to the encampment, Reid said it should be part of the larger conversation about the camp.  

"I think it puts us in a position of having to look at this problem in a more comprehensive manner," he said, saying that there were knife fights on 14th Street earlier this week.  

Early this afternoon, Mayor Jean Quan said that a plan to remove the encampment "has to be done thoughtfully" and "has to take time." 

Quan said she wants to "continue dialogue" with protesters who have been in Frank Ogawa Plaza for a month before the city takes any action. 

Chief Jordan told reporters earlier today that, "I'm not at liberty to announce if and when we'll take any action" to remove protesters from the plaza. 

City Councilman Ignacio De La Fuente, who is one of the members urging the immediate removal of the encampment, said, "We're waiting for the mayor and her administration to deal with the situation but it gets worse and worse every day." 

De La Fuente said he thinks the longer the protesters are allowed to stay at the plaza the harder it will be to remove them. 

"More and more people are camping out in the plaza, not less," he said. 

Earlier today, the mayor's office released a statement saying that three to five electrical breakers had been tripped on Monday on 14th Street and the interior plaza bench areas. 

City officials said staff has not been able to check the light poles to see what tripped the breakers so they have not been reset. 

Tonight, the lights were still out and a number of protesters at the crime scene were angrily yelling, "Turn the lights on," saying that the darkness leads to more crime.  

Others lit candles all around the scene of the shooting, and one man sat cross-legged and meditating near the police tape.