GLYNN WASHINGTON, HOST:
Snappas, you may know that our show is produced in Oakland. And Oakland’s known for a few things, we’re the home of the Black Panthers. Our Golden State Warriors are the champions of the world. And the slang written in our music is used all over the planet--- hella, fo shizzle, baller, janky--these words came from these streets. Recording studios, they lean against the abandoned warehouses of West Oakland. You can hear the late night sideshows from the bottom of the East Oakland hills. And a revolutionary brass band marches around Lake Merritt on Saturdays. Or you can see that kid with the drum set by the movie theater.
We love this place, we do.
But, the thing that’s hard to swallow is the murder rate.
At one point, Oakland ranked as one of the most dangerous cities in America because of our homicide number--with over 140 people slain in a single year. But now, that rate has dipped below one hundred people murdered every year. That’s progress, it is. Yet, it means our neighbors are still dying out here.
We wanted to let you know about these artists, singers, students, activists, teachers--they are the Oakland family. They are what make beautiful Oakland, edgy Oakland, woke Oakland. Every loss, makes this place less special. So we’re going to do something a little different in this episode. We’re going to tell you who some of these people were.
From WNYC studios and Snap Judgment, we proudly present, Counted: An Oakland Story
Our journey begins with producer Adizah Eghan outside a church on the edge on town.
ADIZAH EGHAN: It’s New Year Eve 2016. I’m at St. Columba Church in Oakland. Outside, a group of people circle around the lawn. In the garden, there’s over 80 slim white wooden crosses. And on each cross, written in marker, is a name, an age, and a date of death. They stand for Oakland’s homicide victims this year. Today, each name will be read, and each cross pulled up from the ground.
[Names ambi- “First is Carlos, his date of death, January 9th . . . ashe blessed be God. . . Demetrius, January 20th. . . ”]
ADIZAH: Every year, there are mothers, fathers, children, walking around Oakland, with no idea that they’ll be a statistic by the end of the year. We wanted to know who these people were, and who they left behind. So beginning January 1st, 2017, we decided to reach out to the families and friends of each homicide victim. One of the first people, we met was Daryle Allums.
DARYLE ALLUMS: These are all my kids. Everyone of these names being read is my kids. I’m their father. I’m their Uncle. I’m their street father. They didn’t have to die.
[“. . . ashe blessed be God. . . Dominique. . . “]
ADIZAH: We found Daryle carrying a little rolling cart outside a church in West Oakland. In his cart he had three poster boards, taped with pictures of kids who were killed in Oakland.
DARYLE: I grew up in Deep East Oakland, 96 Birch, Oliver and Sunnyside Park. I love Oakland man you know I, I remember coming up and going to the house parties. We dancing all night and stuff and and kicking it till like ten, eleven. And everybody walking home together in a group, you know what I mean. We stayed kinda close.
You know, I remember growing up, Miss Mildred she worked at the liquor store, they had a little sandwich spot in the back where they made the sandwich hot link sandwiches, and turkey sandwiches and we loved the hotlink sandwiches and when you didn't have all the money Miss Mildred, you know, she’ll look out for you, she’ll make you free a sandwich.
You know, the hood took care of us.
ADIZAH: Last year, Daryle lost seven members of his family to violence.
[“. . . here we go again. . . bang bang boogie, bang bang boogie. Not this one. I’m up here on 9-0 and MacArthur . . .. .”]
DARYLE: So I decided that, I was gonna try to decrease the homicides in Oakland. I started on 9-0 and Macarthur with one poster board, it had six pictures on there. And then another poster board I had marked on there: stop killing my kids. I went to each corner on the stoplight yelling stop killing my kids.
[“. . . stop killing my kids, I’m the man with the purple hair on the corner of 9-0 and MacArthur, stop killing my kids]
DARYLE: So when I first started doing this? Man my street family, my church family, man I mean my sandbox friends, even my damn pastor thought I was crazy. I did a video on 94th and Peach Street. And less than 24 hours, it , it went viral. A lot of people started following.
ADIZAH: So Daryle is that guy on the street corner, some people honk their horns at him, some people roll up their windows.
[“. . . I’m here, today, tomorrow, Sunday. . . I’m here . . .” ]
DARYLE: So my plan for 2017, yea I’m trying to decrease the homicides. We got to go under 80 mane, got to.
[“. . .Amen, clap it up , clap it up, clap it up. I need to hear it say, “Stop (stop), killing ( killing), our (our), kids (kids). . .Stop (stop), killing ( killing), our (our), kids (kids). . . clap it up, clap it up, clap it up, clap it up. . .”]
DARYLE: Compared to other cities, Oakland is small--it’s like a fifth of the population of Chicago.
AMAHNI FOSTER : You can like, meet anybody in Oakland. And be like, “What you love about Oakland?”
-- “Oakland get turnt up,” like they put a smile on your face. Like we goofy, we fun, we loving. Like when everything going good, ain’t nobody beefin, ain’t nobody fonkin. . .
DARYLE: You basically got the rich folks living in the hills, then you got us in the flatlands, in East Oakland. And most of the murders? That’s where it happen at. In Deep East Oakland. And for the young people out in East Oakland , the town, it starts feelin like smaller and smaller.
AMAHNI: I would describe my Oakland . . . hurt.
DARYLE: Amahni is a young person who lives in Deep East Oakland. Man she already lost a lot of her friends, her family to violence right here. I went to highschool with Amahni’s mom, at Castlemont.
AMAHNI: My name is Amahni Foster, and I’m from East Oakland, California. I’m 21 years old. I never had to describe myself before, this is weird. I’m Black (laughs) unapologetically Black. I’m goofy, obviously.
DARYLE: Four days into the New Year, we lost our first child, a young man named Devonte Thomas.
ADIZAH: Devonte was killed just nine blocks from where we are sitting now. . . He was the same age as Ahmani and her brother. They were all close. Ahmani says he always looking out for her. And she had just seen Devonte, at a party.
AMAHNI: it was a like a, a little block party and he had gave me some money, he had smoked with me and he told me like, you know “Be careful, stay safe.” You know, and he told me to go home too. He was like you shouldn’t even be out here. But I was grown but he was still like, “Go home, you know like, I don’t want to see you out here like go home.” I left too cuz I’m like, alright you know he wouldn’t be telling me this if he didn’t know what he was talking about. You know?
DARYLE: Don't nobody talk about another murder in these streets. So we still don't know exactly what happened to Devonte after he got killed.
ADIZAH: After Devonte was killed, of course Amahni was sad, but she was also on edge, she was worried for her brother, Darnell. And then, around midnight on February 11th, Amahni got a phone call
AMAHNI: My little sister called my phone and she like, “Mahni.” I’m like wassup?
They’re sayin that Darnell just got shot like on 65th. I just instantly told my auntie, like we got to go to 65th now. So my cousin she’s asking me like, “What’s going on, what’s going on?”
I don’t want to say, “Oh my brother just got shot” because I feel like it’s gonna make everything worser, you know like just for him, you feel me? Like I feel like gonna feel it, like damn ain’t nobody got no hope for me.
Everybody started panicking or whatever.
So we pushin it to the 60s, but I’m, I’m socking my auntie car windows and hella shit. Like I’m trippin up in there. Cuz i’m like they’re not driving fast enough and my little sister keep calling me, I’m ignoring her phone calls because it’s like I don’t want to hear the wrong thing. And Lo and behold, I answered the phone and she like where you at cause they’re saying that he’s unconscious. So we pull up not even to the scene, we pull up like what, two blocks, like away.
[(Dispatch) - . . . arthur and havenscourt, male black, 20 not conscious, not breathing gunshot wounds to the chest . . . still unconscious still not breathing still got a big crowd forming. . . 10 gunshot wounds to his chest. . .]
AMAHNI: And I just bounced out the car, I had on some red stilettos.
And I must have slipped off them shoes so fast and I slipped my crocs on and I start running down the street in my crocs. Like I’m like, I gotta get down there, like I gotta get down there to see him. Like, if anything like, I have to be the one. And I ran out of my crocs and when I get to the scene. I see the person who was there with my brother on the ground crying. And then I see like a lot of police officers. And then I see like yellow tape so I’m like fuck bro. And I’m just like I ran up to the police and I’m like where’s my brother? And they’re , they’re they got fuckin smirks on they face and laughing at me. I feel like they didn’t care.
It’s an anxiety kinda feeling. Like, It’s like a feeling that runs through your body to where. It’s like your nerves, even your nerves are confused. You know and that’s why your blood rushes like that. Cuz it’s like I’m calm but I’m, I’m amped in the same note. Like a bottle of soda.
I was just talking to myself like I can’t believe that my brother is really dead. I just broke down on my knees and I was telling God I was sorry and I was telling my brother I was sorry in the same note because its like, I felt like, I could a held you, you know and let you know like at least if you gonna go you see somebody that you feel comfortable with.
ADRIANE: I delivered him October 30, 1994. Never forget the day that we came home that evening. Day before Halloween, and I’m walking down the steps with stitches, you know from delivering, and a little baby in this, in the carrier.
Darnell was short for a very long time, he was so afraid that he wouldn’t get tall and grow. He would come in and ask: Can you measure me? Measure me. This is every day. And I’m like, we would tell him, you can’t measure yourself everyday, you gone still be the same height, you know.
ADRIANE: We worked with him as much as we could. We kept him in church, but the older he got and the company that he had, he, he geared to what was more attractive and appealing -- which were the kids who got to do whatever they wanted to.
ADIZAH: Darnell actually grew up to be pretty tall. His family said he was really into the way he looked. He wanted to be famous. He would make funny videos on Instagram and send memes to all his family members. And in his spare time he would write
ADRIANE: He started writing hooks for, for songs and music. It sounded really good. So he started calling himself Oakland’s hook man.
ADIZAH: Even so, he made plans with Amahni to leave Oakland.
ADRIANE: It started to affect them the things that were happening around them especially when they started to lose friends you know, friends that were shot at parties and killed.
Darnell was the 5th homicide of Oakland, California this year.
ADIZAH: Darnell was shot over 10 times. And the man who police charged with his murder, who witnesses say was responsible for the shooting -- was not a stranger. He was really good friends with Darnell. He called him his brother.
AMAHNI: I never felt safe in Oakland, like this is East Oakland, you could never get too comfortable out here, because anything can happen at any point in time.
ADIZAH: After he was killed, Darnell’s mom wanted to leave Oakland. She had only been living in her apartment for a few years. She had kids to take care of. She really wasn’t prepared to move, but she just had to leave.
DARYLE: Adriane went through all these other towns. But the landlords didn't want to rent to a woman with three kids from Oakland on Section 8. The thing is, these nearby towns, like Antioch and Pittsburg, that’s where everybody started going when Oakland rent prices started going up. At first it was cool, but then the violence started following, and now, landlords? They just don't want to rent from nobody from Oakland.
ADIZAH: So Adriane ended up back in Deep East Oakland
DARYLE: She still doesn't feel safe. She’s still paranoid. So she keeps the location of her new apartment a secret.
ADRIANE: We do peep out the the windows a little bit here and there. I’m not that far from where I was living. It’s, I know the sirens are going off right now but like, like, generally it’s like a lot more quiet here on the street, right here where I live.
Last night we were in here. The police were shooting all up and down here. You know, my son, he came behind me and stood there and he was like, “Mom close the window. I hope our doors are locked. What’s going on?” He was really scared, you know that bothers me.
ADIZAH: For Darnell’s birthday, Adriane invited a few close friends and family members to her apartment and they had a party.
[“Cake time! . . .
ADRIANE: Real fast let’s sing happy birthday. . . It’s his birthday, we miss you D we love you. . .Mommy gone always love you and mourn you, everyday of my life. . . it ain’t gone nothing to stop. . . we gone celebrate you forever, everyday. Your big 23rd, I know if he was here right now, he would think this was the biggest thing on earth right now. . . 23 ain’t nothin but still a baby.
HAZEL HARRY: Thank you everybody for coming… you know it’s amazing you, you see them born, you raise them, you help raise them and then . . .
(group sings) Happy birthday to ya. . . ]
ADIZAH: Amahni was there, she got t-shirts made with his Instagram name on ‘em: The real stunna.
Mahni: When our friend Muffin died it was Muffin world, you know, when my best friend Ed died it’s Ed world, Skeet world, you know Devonte world, you know, I could name so many more. You know, but it’s just like, that you know that’s just something that we do, just to like uplift the spirit like aye, you know like he’s still here, like Stunnaworld, like you know like, yea. . .
[“. . . I love you D. . .
Can we sing Stunnaworld?
You wanna say Stunnaworld?”
GLYNN: You’re listening to Snap Judgment, Counted: An Oakland Story.
I wanted to let you know that this story, we spent over a year talking to so many people that we knew we had to create a permanent home for what they told us. We started a website called Oaklandstory.org. And when you go to Oaklandstory.org, you’re going to see photos, you’ll be able to listen to stories, and understand the impact these people continued to have on Oakland and the folk who live here.
Now, if you think a violent fate only touches one type of person, then you have to think again when Counted: An Oakland Story continues, stay tuned.
GLYNN: Welcome back to Snap Judgment. Counted: An Oakland Story. For one year, we sent a team of Snap producers to uncover the stories behind the 2017 homicide victims in Oakland, and we met Daryle Allums who’s out on the streets, working to keep the total murder number under 80 people slain.
[ “ Take these guns up off the streets! Stop the violence! Increase the peace! Let’s take these guns up off the streets! Stop the violence! Increase the peace!” ]
DARYLE: Less than a mile from where Darnell was shot at, his mom Adriane stood on the streets with me, holding a giant poster board with his picture.
ADIZAH: Daryle leads the group in prayer.
[“. . .Another day Lord, we come to move for you, Lord. Because these are our children. YOUR children getting killed out here in these streets, Lord. . .”]
DARYLE: What do I say to people that say protesting and holding up signs don’t do shit? We got to be on our kids every damn day.
We got to break this cycle.
ADIZAH: What do you mean by that?
DARYLE: In some ways there is no typical homicide victims in Oakland -- we got old people, young people, Black, white, Asian, men and women. But to be honest with you, the majority of victims? They young, Black men from East Oakland. They dying from revenge killings.
ADIZAH: So can you break this down? How do revenge killings fit into this cycle?
DARYLE: A lot of murders in Oakland go unsolved. Then you got the revenge part: when the other killer get kilt, and then the next killer get kilt, then the next killer get kilt. And it’s like they wiping each other out.
And then the one’s that’s in jail, they not getting charged because of the runaround of, we need a witness, we need somebody to i.d. him, then we need to take the stand. So once you do tell this person’s stuff, then you gotta go back to the same neighborhood and now they gonna call you a snitch. And then his friends might come light your house up, just ‘cause they know you went to down that court house.
I grew up seeing this shit all the damn time. Bullet for bullet, blood for blood. Revenge.
ADIZAH: So how do you stop the cycle?
DARYLE: Miss Mildred, she worked the liquor store, Lee’s Market, when I came up. And when I was in the streets, if she see me actin stupid she sock my upside my head and then tell my momma. You know, we all gotta be like Miss Mildred.
ADIZAH: Basically you want to stop revenge killings by asking people to be accountable for each other?
DARYLE: Gotta go back to being accountable for each other.
So I got this nephew, right? And I’m trying to help him. His father got knocked down in the streets back in the day. He never had a dad. He traumatized from homicide. Now he out here in the streets playing with these guns. He robbing people with his friends. I want the whole neighborhood to watch out for him.
ADIZAH: Is that how we’re gonna get under 80?
DARYLE: I hope so.
ADIZAH: By mid-March, we had lost 12 people.
DARYLE: Valybro Hill was 45 years old. He liked to quote scripture, and listen to Anita Baker.
ADIZAH: Justin Sessions, he was the youngest of 3. And he wanted to be an environmental engineer.
DARYLE: Philip Fai Low: beaten to death in a park.
ADIZAH: And then. . .
DARYLE: March 11. Sultan Bey.
[1, 2, 3. . .SULTAN!!!!! ]
ADIZAH: Sultan’s mom threw a celebration of life for him at the Lake Merritt Boathouse.
[FRIEND 1: “ I met Sultan at Emeryville Recreational Center when I was about around eight years old. He had little dreads, like twisties. I don’t know if they was dreads or twisties or not. But he had braids. . .”]
ADIZAH: A whole bunch of Sultan’s friends were there. Some dressed up, and some with lanyards around their necks with pictures of Sultan.
[“. . . Oh, this is a picture of my dude Sultan. It says ‘Ball in peace, Rocky.’ You feel me? You know, just a nice picture of him.
ADIZAH: So his nickname was Rocky?
FRIEND 2: Yea, Rocky. He had a lot of nicknames. Rocky, Saltwater, Saltwater the Money Man, ya feel me? Ya feel me? You know, Salty Ass Mac. You know, he had a lot of names.” ]
ADIZAH: On Saturday March 11th, 2017, 18 year-old Sultan Bey wanted to go hang out with some friends. This was his last night out before finals. So his mom, who’s known around Oakland as Chef Mimi, cooked salmon, brussel sprouts and truffle mac and cheese.
Then, Sultan’s friend came to pick him up. Around 8 p.m., he was reclining in the passenger’s seat of his friend’s parked car. A bullet came in through the rear window and hit him in the back of his head. He was the 13th homicide of the year.
AMINAH “CHEF MIMI” ROBINSON: We just had dinner, like 30 minutes before.
Sultan was a go-getter. Like, he was getting ready to graduate from high school. He was set to try to attend Clark University. . .
ADIZAH: Chef Mimi’s family owns all kinds of property in the East Bay. They even have a McDonald’s franchise. And she hosts a reality show called “Bringing it to the Table” -- it’s sort of like a Black “Top Chef.”
Chef Mimi and her son Sultan, they didn’t live in East Oakland like Devonte and Darnell. They’re middle class. She’s a social worker and an entrepreneur. Sultan was headed to college.
We kept hearing people around Oakland -- everyone from city councilmembers to reporters, say, “Sultan was a good kid,” and “Sultan wasn’t doing anything wrong.” And we realized people were saying he didn’t deserve to die. The subtext was that the others had it coming.
DARYLE: All the moms, the first thing they say? “Man, my boy is a good boy.” They want to make sure that we grieve with them, instead of writing them off.
We heard the same thing from Chef Mimi that we heard from Adriane. Parts of her wants to leave Oakland so her youngest son won’t have to live in fear. And she knows a lot of parents who have done the same.
CHEF MIMI: A lot of people I know have moved their kids away: Arizona, Texas. And that’s really really sad. You know, that African American boys are such at high risk living in Oakland. They don’t have to be doing anything, no nothing on the line. Nothing. Just get shot for no reason. And I have another black male child to raise.
ADIZAH: In this year of reporting, we saw all these people who come home from their day jobs, and go back out to work in neighborhoods across Oakland. Teachers are knocking on the doors of absent students. Moms teaching kids in school yards how to treat bullet wounds. Teams of violence interrupters are walking the streets, talking down would-be murderers. And Daryle is reaching out to as many families of homicide victims as he can.
DARYLE: As the spring got hotter, more and more people got killed. . .
Leland Hodge, 57 years old. Jevon Wilson, 39 years old.
Then, on March 29th, a young man was killed outside of my church in East Oakland.
ADIZAH: His name was Keith Lawrence and he was 17 years old, a student at Skyline High School. Keith was shot in a parked car, around 10 p.m. at night.
DARYLE: I remember trying to reach out to the family to see if they needed any support. And meanwhile, I was getting blown up by my sister. She kept calling my phone, calling my phone.
I finally answer. And when I did answer, she was crying, she was hysterical, she was going crazy. And basically, what she was explaining to me, that my nephew that I’ve been speaking about -- well, he was the young man that killed his friend, Keith Lawrence.
ADIZAH: Daryle’s nephew -- the one who he had been mentoring since he was born -- shot and killed his friend Keith Lawrence. He was homicide number 17.
This is what Daryle’s Nephew told him.
DARYLE: So the story is told that you have four young men smoking weed, getting high. They just committed a robbery not too long ago, and they were celebrating. Listening to music, laughing and playing with guns. Accidentally the gun went off and killed this young man.
Oh man, I felt so hurt, man. I felt like I let my nephew down because this had happened. All the times, all the conversations, the talks that I had with him . . . it didn't click.
So I hung up the phone and I sat there rocking. Analyzing the whole situation, the options he had.
He had been on the run for two weeks. What’s his options? He gotta turn himself in.
Don't nobody want to got to jail. And for you to have to turn your own flesh and blood in, it hurt. One of the hardest things I ever did in life.
ADIZAH: So what made you want to turn him in?
DARYLE: Why I turned him in, some people might say I ruined his life. But I felt I saved his life. You got an African-American little boy, 18 years old, just turned 18. Armed and dangerous. Hell yeah, the police gonna kill him. He just killed somebody. He’s a suspect on the run. My perspective? The only way to win was to turn him in.
Now my nephew looking at facing anything from 5 to 10 years.
ADIZAH: So we met Keith Lawrence’s mom outside the courthouse at your nephew’s arraignment. And she didn't believe it was an accident. She said, “How could someone pull the trigger on my son’s head, and say that it was an accident?” And she was shaking and she was crying, and she was really upset.
DARYLE: She a mom. That’s how she feel. She’s hurt ‘cause her son got killed. Now we got an accident that’s going to be a family fuckin’ war.
ADIZAH: What do you mean by family war? Is it in your family? Or is it between families?
DARYLE: The ones that lost a child feels like it’s the mom in the family fault that the young man pulled the trigger.
The outcome, what I pray for, is that it do not become a war. Because right now, you know, got people going past the house saying they gonna shoot it up, stuff like that. So it could really become a war, because my sister and her folks, they’re not punks. Though she got folks, too.
A lot of my family and friends, you know, they want to retaliate. It's probably once a week I’m talking to one of them to try to calm them down.
GLYNN: You’re listening to Snap Judgment’s -- Counted: An Oakland Story.
Also, Listen to stories that you can’t hear anywhere else. We’ve got a map of Oakland where you can find hand drawn illustrations of those who have lost their lives. It’s all at Oaklandstory. o-r-g.
Now when Snap returns, he’s already lost so much, can he stop it from happening to someone else. When Counted: An Oakland Story continues.
GLYNN: From WNYC, welcome back to Counted: An Oakland Story. My name is Glynn Washington and in 2017, a team of Snap producers fanned across the city to find the stories behind the murder victims. Along with countless others, we met Daryle Allums who works desperately trying to ensure Oakland’s homicide rate does not surpass 80 victims
ADIZAH: By the end of Spring, 32 people had been killed in Oakland. 5 more than this time last year.
May 8th: Demrick Been, stabbed to death outside a recycling Center. June 2nd: Kenya Levias and Dennis Johnson, double homicide.
DARYLE: Dennis was my sandbox friend’s brother.
DARYLE: In the summertime is usually when homicides spike up. So I’ve learned over the years, I got to do double time in these streets.
ADIZAH: July 17, Anthony Owens.
ADIZAH: And then. . .
[Dispatch: . . . “One Lincoln Twelve, copy...We need a unit to cover Rich and Webster…”]
ADIZAH: On August ninth, Dave DePoris, a 40-year-old folk singer, was sitting outside the Hawk and Pony coffee shop in North Oakland.
[Dispatch: …. “It’s a vehicle versus pedestrian...with the victim bleeding from the head…”]
GENE DEPORIS: I was in the jungles of Sri Lanka, and I went there to look for leopards. And I got up at six in the morning, and I turned my phone on, and I saw that about every two or three minutes there was a phone call coming in either from my ex-wife or from my stepdaughter. And I knew there was something terribly wrong that had happened.
ADIZAH: This is Dave Deporis’ father, Gene.
GENE: And I called and said, “What's going on?” It was my ex-wife, and there’s a long pause and she said, “Gene, our son is dead.”
And that's how I learned about David.
My son died at 40.
ADIZAH: Gene felt the same way as a lot of the other parents who we talked to. His son’s murder upended the natural order of things. When children die before their parents, it's so sudden. Nobody gets to say goodbye. Now Gene was looking back at his son’s life and trying to figure out who he really was.
GENE: He literally, he sang before he talked. He would bang out music on his crib.
ADIZAH: Dave used to tell his parents that he was wired differently from most people.
GENE: Well, I would turn to him you know -- You're 30 now. What are you going to do? You're 35. When are you going to get a corporate job? What about having money to be able to date? What about having a career?
If he played a venue and he got paid, that was nice. If he played a venue and didn't get paid, that was nice. All of this was stuff that put me, as a dad, on tilt.
I was terrified.
ADIZAH: When Gene got to Oakland two days after Dave died, he had no idea what to expect. He only knew that his son came to Oakland to make music.
GENE: By the time I got to Oakland, I knew that he was sitting in a sidewalk cafe working on his music on his laptop. And someone grabbed the laptop, ran to a waiting getaway car.
And my son ran after the car to try to to get the laptop back, because it had his music on it. It had all the things he was working on on it. And somehow was holding onto the guy in the car, and they drove for over 200 yards. Banging him against other cars until he slipped out and was run over by their car and killed.
It was the middle of the day, in the middle of the week, in a nice area of Oakland.
And that's where my son was killed.
When I arrived there, the first thing that happened, a phalanx of David's friends, none of whom I knew existed, befriended and took all of us over and put us up at their houses.
I realized that my son had a much larger following than I had expected, and they were the people who started telling me all about David and all the things they knew about him.
I feel that I've gotten a Ph.D. in my son, which started not at base zero, but pretty darn close to it.
ADIZAH: Some of Dave’s friends held a vigil in his honor. They also organized a peace walk with musicians, poets and artists....
GENE: This woman who lived on the street where he died -- which was Rich Street -- she comes up to me and gave me a big hello. And I hugged her.
And after she left there I was, and I looked at the memorial book that was there. And she wrote something in it.
LISA JOHNSON : I heard your voice call out for help. I heard the SUV screech away.
GENE: This woman saw my son run over and ran in the house and got a blanket and came out to join the policewoman and wrapped my son's feet in the blanket as he passed away.
LISA : I saw your torn clothes and held your feet. I saw you on your back, looking up at the old tree in the sky.
GENE: I learned that so much of what I thought I knew about my son was wrong. Parents, when they view their kids, they're always viewing them with an eye towards themselves.
When I got to Oakland, I was so impressed with what I've seen with the people, what I've learned about the town.
I'm proud of his humanity and how he was able to build his life around who he wanted to be as a human being. I am the proudest dad in the whole world right now
ADIZAH: By mid-September, 46 people had been killed. At least half were Black. 43 were men, three, women. 13 were under the age of 25. And at least two, we found out, were homeless.
DARYLE: This is a new thing we gotta deal with, the homeless encampments. It didn't used to be like this.
DARYLE: In Oakland, rent went up. Can’t afford rent. A lot of people lost they section 8. And when the rent go up, no section 8, next step is the tents. Even the motel rooms, they expensive.
There’re tent cities all over Oakland...It’s like a mini village, a mini community. A lot of people work together sharing food, and hygienes and clothes. Then you got a bad side. With some people use it to sell drugs, to hide from the police. All kinds of people living in ‘em.
ADIZAH: September 14th , Jason Coleman.
Jason lived in a homeless encampment in North Oakland. Here, a handful of RVs are parked under an overpass. Old couch cushions, clothes and empty bottles are scattered over the sidewalk where people gather. This was Jason’s home.
LINDA: Yeah, oh yeah, we were a community, shoot!
ADIZAH: This is Jason’s friend, Linda. She lives in the encampment, in an RV, with her dog.
LINDA: One time he came from Pak N Save, and they had made a mistake on his EBT card and gave him 100 dollars more of food stamps. He was only supposed to get, like, 40 dollars or something of food stamps. So he bought a bunch of hot dogs and hamburgers and coal. And it just so happens that it was, I think -- what was that holiday? -- Labor Day weekend because yea.
And we were all real hungry but none of the churches or the food people were coming because they were with their families, you know. He came riding on that little bike with that damn cart on the back.
ADIZAH: A few days later, someone stole that bike from Jason.
SUZANNE NEWTON: Jason came out of the man cave and and just looked at me like, “Get my bike!”
Yeah, Suzanne Newton, I’ve been homeless my whole life.
I just went straight on running at the guy. Ran straight at him. And he got scared, went for his gun, pointed it right at him and just shot him.
Jason just, you know, grabbed the bullet hole, and I was hoping it was a blank. But then he pulled his hand off of his body and he was bleeding. So he ran. He ran to the cave, and and I grabbed him by then, when I ran inside the RV and grabbed a tampon and made him lay down and put a tampon in the bullet hole. And started CPR.
I was just telling him to hold on. And he was telling me he, you know, he couldn't breathe. He couldn't breathe... And he, he gasped for air one more time.
ADIZAH: You can still see Jason’s bloody handprints on the wall of the freeway where he lived.
And Jason, actually didn't live on the streets, he lived inside them.
Inside the hollow cement pillars that hold up the off-ramp, Jason had made a room for himself.
He had even wired cable and Internet inside…
FRIEND: Man cave, man cave. There was you know, a couch in there, you know. He had a mini fridge, you know. He’s got a water container, he’s got, you know, he had a projector. . .
ADIZAH: There’s a small shrine in a corner of the underpass where people have placed little things to remember Jason.
FRIEND 2: So I just. . . I put the GI Joe there. There’s all the mardi gras beads and the hearts that are hanging. Yeah, I put those there.
I wrote up there that I love him like a brother. That’s how… our relationship was really brother/sister. But I really did have a really big crush on Jason.
ADIZAH: It’s October. Daryle still talks to his nephew in jail, the one he turned in for the murder of Keith Lawrence.
DARYLE: He’s hanging in there. It’s hard, taking care of my own kids, all the moms that can’t sleep, they can’t eat, they just want me to pray with them because they kids got killed in the streets. Yeah.
ADIZAH: You want to give up sometimes?
DARYLE: A lot.
Last week someone stole my car. It had my wheelchair in it, my medication. Man, but the hardest thing was, they stole my picture boards of my kids; my kids that lost their lives to violence.
So I had to redo a poster board over. Buy new poster, re-print pictures. It took me back to the killings of them. Like I don't know if I want to do this anymore. It really messed me up.
I have Lupus. I land in the hospital like twice a month, and they telling me to take it easy. I can’t. Got lives to save.
DARYLE: On October the 10th there was another homicide. The youngest homicide of Oakland.
[NEWS ANCHOR: Rob, you learned that the boy had just finished having dinner with his family when he was shot.
ROB: Well, that’s right Julie, he’d also gone to church that night… ]
ADIZAH: Anibal Ramirez was sitting in Walnut plaza-- four days before, there was a ribbon cutting ceremony there. The neighbors were excited that this notoriously dangerous corner was getting a facelift: There were new palm trees, string lights and game tables. A city councilwoman called it “a nice place to just escape.”
That night, the boy’s father, Gilberto Vasquez, answered a knock on the door.
GILBERTO: In that moment, I went and grabbed a sweater, and I said let’s go, let’s see what happened…. What we thought was that maybe he was in jail, they had picked him up off the street.
ADIZAH: But the police told him his 13-year old son Anibal was shot dead on a park bench down the street. At first, Gilberto didn't believe it.
GILBERTO: But when they showed me that photo, with the gunshots, that’s the moment. In that moment I didn’t have words. My wife started crying. The truth is, I was praying.
ADIZAH: Anibal’s family had moved to Oakland from Guatemala.
GILBERTO: I loved him so much
My son, when he got here, everything started out ok, he went to school, he had vacation, and over those vacations was when he started to change. We’d ask him what was going on, and sometimes he’d get mad at us.
ADIZAH: Anibal’s school, Frick Impact Academy, is about half a mile from where he was shot. Ruby De Tie is the principal here.
When kids don’t show up for class, Principal Ruby goes looking for them. One time, she found Anibal skipping school.
RUBY DE TIE: And, we just, you know. . . I saw him walking down the street. And just, “Get back in the car. We're going back to school.”
ADIZAH: The day after Anibal was murdered, Principal Ruby called an assembly.
RUBY: I did cry in front of my students, just when I was explaining to them that I love them and we're a family and we're going to get through this together.
When you work in East Oakland, there is a lot of trauma that is happening on a daily basis and our kids are coming to school with all of that.
He just… he had, he has a wonderful family. And they came here with the intentions of doing better. And I can’t imagine, you know, because you want, you just want to keep kids safe.
He’s just a kid. And if you don't remember that, then it's easy to say, “Oh, you know.” I’ve heard, “He shouldn't have been outside.” Or, “he should’ve…” And it doesn't make it right. He's just a kid.
DARYLE: I found out about Anibal’s death. We had got together, went to the family house. We needed a translator, and we discussed a fundraiser for him.
So we went back to where he was killed at, on Seminary off of Foothill. And we invited some of the moms that lost their kids to violence. His parents didn’t have no money for the funeral or to send the little boy’s body back to Guatemala. We raised 3700 dollars to help send his body back to Guatemala.
[ CROWD: We need donations! A child was murdered and needs to be buried! ]
DARYLE: And I always keep extra blank posters, glue sticks, paper letters, you know, to make new ones.
[DARYLE: We about to make a sign for this young man, before his family get here. Pick up scissors. . . ]
DARYLE: Every time I do a poster board it saddens me. My youngest son is 13 and I worry about him in the streets. I don't wanna ever get that phone call.
[MOTHER: We don’t have an N, what could we use for an N? ]
ADIZAH: I know at the beginning of the year you said you had a personal goal to keep the murder rate under 80 this year. It’s the end of November. How are we looking compared to last year at this time?
DARYLE: Last year we had 72 homicides around this year, now we got 65. Full court press.
It’s an amazing feeling. It feels like this year we gonna save a lot of lives.
ADIZAH: But Then December came, and all hell broke loose. All across the city people were shot to death every few days. In one awful week in particular, seven people were murdered.
And then, two days before Christmas, there was a homicide that made a lot of headlines, and it was particularly rough on Daryle. The victim was Dominique Johnson, and he was known in Oakland as an activist.
He was gunned down outside the community center he helped to build. His family waited until after Christmas to tell his seven year-old daughter.
[DARYLE: So we on Grand, we on Grand and Brush. We out here today, for a community -- for a village healing right now. This is a village healing circle. We’re cleaning up our community. There’s a of trash out here. We got the tents behind us over here. ]
DARYLE: I had mad respect for Dom. He was out there trying to fight for justice for people that got killed that he never even met. He was killed coming out the Qilombo Center, the place where he built a community garden at. He helped clean up the neighborhood. He helped even put some paint on that building, with the red, the black and the green.
ADIZAH: Do you see yourself in Dom?
DARYLE: I see myself a lot in Dom, but younger. See, when. . . Oh, at 30 years old I wasn't doing what Dom was doing, you know what I’m saying? I was pushing crack, getting money.
ADIZAH: So how did it make to feel to see a 30 year-old knocked down doing something like that?
DARYLE: Pissed me the hell off! And that’s just one of those things right there, how they say, do Black lives lives really matter? We yelling and screaming, but damn, do it really matter?
[“. . . All family to the side please. . .” ]
ADIZAH: DARYLE Mc’d the funeral.
After the funeral, everyone got in there cars and drove to the reception. It wasn’t held in a funeral home or someone’s house. They went back to the spot where Dom was killed. Daryle organized a neighborhood cleanup. Friends unloaded chicken, and platters of cookies and soda from their cars.
People in the homeless encampment across the street lent their brooms. It felt like the whole neighborhood was out there, sweeping up clothes mixed with empty bottles and leaves.
Here’s Dom’s friend from Qilombo, Adriana Brown.
Adriana: I moved here about 10 years ago, let’s say I’ve been in California for about 10 years. So, I feel like Dom was somebody who I gravitated towards, because I felt like his realness matched my realness. Dom was like a big brother that I never had.
Bo: Dom world baby. . .
[DARYLE: “We cleaning up, because this is what Dominique did...he cleaned up the community, he fought for the community and he took care of the community. So in honor of Dom, we out here doing that for the community today. “
It’s the Dom movement! This his work! We continue his work! Continue his work, baby!]
[Singing amazing grace]
ADIZAH: I’m at St. Columba church. It’s December 31, 2017. I’m here again.
[“. . . The first death of 2017: Devonte, January 4th. . . Ashe. . . “
ADIZAH: The final number for 2017 is 77.
[“. . . Darnell, February 11th. . . Ashe. Blessed be God. “]
ADIZAH: The number was under 80. It felt like an accomplishment, but still, nothing Daryle could be happy about.
[“We are marching in the light of god. . . “}
ADIZAH: When the ceremony ends, Daryle leaves with Dominique’s cross over his shoulder.
DARYLE: A couple hours after I left the cross ceremony, I go out to the store, in Oakland, and as I’m coming out, all you heard was Bap bap bap bap bap bap bap bap bap bap bap bap bap!
So we got down on the ground got back in the store. I peekaboo out. No more gunshots, I got to my car and I got up out of there.
Was they shooting at me? I don't know! But the gunshots came!
But that don't mean that I’m scared. I can’t stop the work! The movement got to keep going. If I get knocked down, somebody got to pick the torch up right behind me and keep it going, and we already got someone in line for that.
GLYNN: Big, big love and thanks to Amahni Foster, Adriane and Hazel Harry, Linda, Aminah "Chef Mimi" Robinson, The Deporis Family, Susan Trout, Gilberto Vasquez and Suzanne Newton.
Our co-hosts of the Counted, An Oakland Story are Adizah Eghan and Daryle Allums.
Senior Producer Anna Sussman
Story concept by Jonathan Jones
Production by Adizah Eghan, Anna Sussman, Shaina Shealy, Jonathan Jones, Pat Mesiti-Miller, Nancy Lopez, Jazmin Aguilera, Eliza Smith, and Pendarvis Harshaw
Additional production by Teo Ducot and Liz Mak
Photography by Cinque Mubarak
Special thanks to Fantastic Negrito and Essex Music
Original music by Pat-Mesiti-Miller Leon Morimoto and Renzo Gorrio.
Snap Judgment is executive produced by Mark Ristich and myself.
Be sure to visit our website, OaklandStory. o-r-g to find amazing photos and interviews with victim’s families and community organizers from across the city.
Though this story occurred in our hometown of Oakland California, This is WNYC.