A torrent of violence during an 18-hour stretch Monday evening and Tuesday left four people dead and five other people wounded by gunfire across Oakland, including three men who had just finished praying at a local mosque and a teen girl who was left gravely injured.
The run of violence was punctuated Tuesday afternoon with a shooting that left one person dead and another wounded near Oakland City Hall. Taken together, the bloodshed left Oakland police reeling and led to renewed calls for an end to the gun violence that has seen homicides jump across the city over the last few years.
On Tuesday afternoon, Oakland City Council President Nikki Fortunato Bas decried the violence as “incredibly tragic and unacceptable.”
For the people left mourning the dead — including Oakland’s Muslim and Ethiopian communities — the shootings were simply inexplicable. The first, a drive-by shooting on Telegraph Avenue, left two members of those communities dead and a third hospitalized with gunshot wounds.
“Everybody was devastated, everybody was shocked that someone would this kind of carnage on our community, and just hit someone so beloved,” said Abdullah Elbgal, 26, who attends the mosque.
The violence began at about 7:45 p.m. Monday with a hail of gunfire along Telegraph Avenue, when at least two gunmen opened fire from a car as it passed in front of a market and restaurant on the 3100 block of Telegraph Avenue.
The shooting came just after prayers had ended at the Oakland Islamic Center, when attendees typically either stay for a communal dinner to break their daily fast, or go across the street to a market and Middle Eastern restaurant. The blasts of gunfire lasted about 10 seconds while “shaking the whole mosque” across the street, Elbgal said.
“They came after them with a vengeance,” said Elbgal. “We were all freaked out. This was shaking the whole mosque. It was echoing throughout the hallways, like Rambo or something like that.”
Elbgal said that he soon realized that the gunfire appeared directed at an eatery across the street. When he ran over, he found one man lying in a pool of blood inside a restaurant. Then he found one of the mosque’s board members nearby. Both men bled to death there.
“He was going gray — the best way I can describe it is like a cup without water,” Elbgal said.
Elbgal said that security footage at the mosque showed a white car that matched the one involved in the shooting circling the adjacent block multiple times immediately before the gunfire erupted.
On Tuesday afternoon, Oakland police Deputy Chief James Beere said that officers were still working on nailing down a motive for the shooting, saying that “at this time, we are uncertain of the motive and are investigating all leads.”
The family of Belal Esa, 59, confirmed to this news organization that he died in the shooting. He came to the U.S. from Ethiopia in the late 1980s and lived within a mile of the mosque, where he raised his family. Authorities have not released the names of either man killed in the gunfire.
Though Esa’s family asked for privacy while mourning his death, other members of the mosque recalled a man who was wildly generous and constantly seeking to help others. Often, he brought fruit to the mosque to give to others. And he routinely sent money that he helped raise during Ramadan fundraisers back to Ethiopia.
“It’s a big loss — he was a huge figure” for the local Muslim and Ethiopian communities, said Abdu Esa, a relative of the slain man. “What is to be gained by this?”
“He was a family man — he was very, very polite,” said Fuad Ahmed, 65, a friend. He decried the violence, and suggested action be taken to address the proliferation of guns throughout society. “It’s very sad. This is a social issue, a societal problem.”
The shooting in the Pill Hill neighborhood kicked off a bloody 11-hour stretch that saw police respond to six shootings across Oakland.
Forty-five minutes later, at about at 8:30 p.m., a 48-year-old woman was fatally shot a few miles to the east on the 2200 block of East 20th Street. She appears to have been shot while on or near the street, Oakland police said. Her name has not been released, and additional details were not immediately available.
The killings marked the 88th, 89th, 90th and 91st homicides of the year Oakland police have investigated. The California Highway Patrol has also investigated four homicides on freeways in the city. By this time last year, OPD had investigated 100 homicides.
While investigating the Telegraph Avenue double homicide, two Oakland police officers were injured when a suspected drunk driver plowed into a police cruiser — injuring one officer inside and another who was standing nearby. Both officers were treated and released at a hospital, while the suspected drunk driver was arrested.
What followed next were a series of shootings along a 1.2-mile stretch of International Boulevard in East Oakland.
At about 11:43 p.m., a 17-year-old girl was shot in the 2600 block of International Boulevard. Police said she was shot multiple times by a woman after some kind of confrontation. Some other people were nearby but were not injured by the gunfire. At least one parked vehicle was riddled with bullets, authorities said.
An hour-and-a-half later, a 39-year-old man was shot in the arm in the 1200 block of International Boulevard. He told police he was walking when he heard gunfire and saw he had been shot and ran to a nearby liquor store for help. Before police got there, the man called another person who drove him to a hospital, where he was in stable condition.
And about an hour before sunrise Tuesday, a 21-year-old woman was shot in the lower body at 5:59 a.m. while she was outside in the 1000 block of International Boulevard.
Elbgal said witnessing Monday evening’s first shooting left him shaken. The gun violence gripping Oakland was not something he had given much thought before this week. Now, it’s all he’s thinking about.
“It’s insane. It’s getting out of hand,” Elbgal said. “Something needs to happen. I guess it’s going to take us as a society, as a city on a smaller level, to come together and say enough is enough.”
Jason Green contributed to this report.