OAKLAND -- In one of the worst episodes of sustained violence this year, seven people have been killed since Friday in Oakland.
Even as FBI statistics show a marked drop in violent crime nationwide, Oakland has maintained a surprisingly high level of violent crime. Further, police believe the seven killings were unrelated, strengthening the impression of a city in the grip of a widespread and dispersed pattern of brutality.
"The degree of activity our city experienced this week is unusual and unacceptable -- each incident was tragic and unfortunate," Oakland police Chief Howard Jordan said in a statement. "At this time, the murders appear to be separate and unrelated, but I understand the community's concern."
This week's grisly death toll surpasses similarly violent sprees of previous years. Last year, for example, 12 people were killed in two separate periods -- May 15-21 and June 18-23 -- six in each one. In 2008, 12 people were killed -- Feb. 9-11 and Dec. 30-Jan. 1 -- in three-day spans, also six in each. The last time Oakland saw such a sustained level of violence in such a short period of time was Aug. 2-5, 2007, when eight people were killed.
"We've got to do better than this," said Diane Metiver, 51, a Jamaican transplant to Oakland who Tuesday evening found herself calling 911 to report the shooting death of 15-year old Hadari Askari in the East Oakland housing complex where they were neighbors. "These young people have got to start making better choices."
The seven-day death toll began the night of July 6, when three men were killed. Two had been shot to death, while a third suffered sufficient injury to his body that police classified the death as a homicide. Police say the first of these killings involved a 70-year-old man who shot and killed his 67-year-old friend after the two got into an argument in the older man's garage.
Then on Monday morning, an 84-year-old man, who had been found severely beaten near his car, died of traumatic injuries to his head. Less than 24 hours later, police discovered the body of Joel Pervoe, Jr., 20, a Hayward resident who was found dead in a Toyota off Interstate 580 Tuesday morning. Two other people, a man and a woman, were also shot at another location, but both were expected to survive. By Tuesday evening, less than 12 hours after Pervoe's body was discovered, Hadari, a high school junior and volunteer firefighter, was gunned down inside his gated East Oakland housing complex, about a hundred yards from his front door. Friends and family members believe the 6-foot-1 Hadari, who loved kids and often spent time playing with neighbors' children, was bullied at a nearby basketball court and gunned down as he tried to run home for safety.
"He was the sweetest thing that ever was," said his grandmother, Donna Henry, choking back tears as she stood over the patch of bloodstained sidewalk where her grandson's body had fallen.
Wednesday was quiet, but Thursday morning a 19-year old woman was fatally shot in an East Oakland motel room along a notoriously dangerous stretch of MacArthur Boulevard.
The tally of the dead stands at 63, on par with Oakland's 2011 homicide toll, which represented a marked increase over the rate in 2010.
Jordan said he had confidence that his officers and investigators are "doing their best" to
help stem the violence. He added that he was "looking at increasing the number of officers on the street ... available to proactively address these trends."
All but one of the homicides happened in East Oakland.
"We have been trying to give him (police chief) all the additional resources that we can and be absolutely supportive," said Oakland Mayor Jean Quan, who has talked with Hadari's mother. "I just want people to know that nobody has to probably deal with the face of violent crime more than I do.
"We as a city have to bring the violent crime down, and it's not something he (Jordan) can do alone or I can do alone; we all have to do it together."