Before Monday, it would have been hard to imagine that violent crime -- driven by a steady stream of street shootings -- could have gotten any worse in Oakland.
Just a few days earlier, the city registered its 27th homicide. A 36-year-old man named Tyrone Braswell was gunned down in East Oakland. We were on track to match or surpass our triple-digit 2011 body count.
But then on Monday, the unfathomable happened.
According to police, a 43-year-old former nursing student named One Goh walked into a classroom at his old school and fatally shot seven people. He wounded three others.
In a flash, Oakland's homicide total had surged to 34 dead. As if its image wasn't already associated in the national consciousness with violent crime, the city can now add the following tag -- site of the worst mass murder in the Bay Area since 1993.
The worst in recent memory occurred when a distraught businessman killed eight employees at a law office at 101 California Street in San Francisco. Those killings led to a push for tighter gun control laws.
Oikos University in Oakland is easy to miss.
The nondescript building on Edgewater Drive near the O.co Coliseum looks like all the other bland buildings in the industrial park zone.
Councilman Larry Reid knows the 7th Council District like the back of his hand. Yet even he did not know there was an independent Korean Christian school just
Yet on Monday, tragedy thrust the little-known school, which offers postsecondary degrees in nursing and ministerial studies, into the global spotlight.
Police Chief Howard Jordan, who held a news conference late Monday, offered no motive for the shootings and said victims would not be identified for several days.
According to a witness account, One was a nursing student who hadn't been in class for months.
But on Monday, he suddenly reappeared shortly after 10 a.m. He went to a nursing class he had previously attended and ordered his former classmates against a wall. Then he flashed a gun.
When students tried to run, the gunman started shooting.
Students bleeding from their injuries fled out onto Edgewater Boulevard, where they were treated by paramedics. Meanwhile, police set out the bodies on a grassy median under yellow plastic.
The shooting attracted media from far and wide, including reporters from Korean news outlets.
Mass killings can and do occur anywhere. They are not a function of geography. Rather, they are the result of one or multiple disturbed individuals who snap and go on a rampage -- usually at their school, place of work or some other location where they have a personal grievance.
In 2000, Stuart Alexander shot and killed three meat inspectors because he was convinced they would close the sausage factory his family had owned for 80 years.
The killings happened in San Leandro, but just as easily could have happened anywhere.
No one said, "Yep, that's San Leandro for you. What do you expect?"
But San Leandro is not Oakland.
San Leandro did not have three children gunned down in its streets within a four-month period in 2011.
San Leandro is not sending hundreds of gunshot victims to Highland Hospital and Children's Hospital every year. San Leandro did not have four police officers killed by a parolee in 2009.
Oakland just can't seem to win for losing.
Just last month, city officials approved spending $3.5 million on plans for the so-called Coliseum City project. The ambitious proposal calls for a new stadium, hotels, conference center and shopping that Reid and city officials have said would revitalize the Coliseum corridor and, they hope, give the city a shot at holding onto the A's and Raiders.
The last thing Oakland needs is global news coverage about a mass killing occurring in that very area.
Once again, the city has a terrible black mark to add to the many others that it seems to never be able to live down.
"It's another sad day for my city," Reid said.
I pray for the families of Monday's shooting victims and for all of those who have lost loved ones to Oakland's never-ending cycle of violence.