OAKLAND -- Citing arrests in two recent homicides and a gang-related shooting, police Chief Anthony Batts said Wednesday that the department is still being productive after the loss of 80 officers in July.
At a press briefing to announce the arrests, Batts said overall violent crime is still down in the city and the number of murders is also on decline from last year.
Last month, the Oakland Police Officers Association said violent crime had increased 8.5 percent in the month since officers were laid off July 13. Statistics obtained by the Tribune showed significant increases in robberies and assaults in that period among other crime increases.
Batts said that such spikes historically occur during summer months and that he is proud of the efforts of officers in the department, especially in solving violent crimes like the ones announced Wednesday. "Our organization is very good at tracking down bad guys," the chief said.
One of the cases cited Wednesday was the arrest and charging of a man in the downtown Oakland fatal shooting of a man that resulted from verbal insults. Police said Michael McCurty, 32, has admitted his involvement in the killing of Craig Ainsworth, 27, of Oakland. Ainsworth was fatally shot about 9:20 p.m. Aug. 23 in the 1300 block of Broadway.
McCurty, an Oakland resident who Richmond police arrested Sunday, has been charged with murder. Police said the two men were not acquainted but frequently went to the downtown area where the shooting happened.
Sgt. Sean Fleming said that on the night of the shooting, the two men had engaged in what started out as friendly banter -- a form of "rapping" -- with each other but that it escalated into insults that McCurty took offense to. He then pulled out a gun and shot Ainsworth before fleeing, police said. Ainsworth died later at a hospital.
Witnesses identified McCurty as the suspected gunman, and he was arrested after Richmond police responded to a domestic violence call, detained McCurty and determined through a computer check that he was wanted by Oakland.
The other homicide case mentioned was the beating and stabbing death of Jose Ogo, 66, of Hayward, whose body was found Saturday wrapped in a rug in the 900 block of 89th Avenue. Investigators determined he probably had been killed while he slept Aug. 26 at a home in the 1300 block of 83rd Avenue.
Arrested Saturday and later charged with murder was Cherie Worthen, also known as Cherie Knowles, 43, who lived in the house, knew Ogo and has admitted her involvement, police said. Jerry Robertson, 50, who police said disposed of the body, has been charged with being an accessory to a felony.
The gang-related shooting happened Aug. 6 in the 1200 block of 71st Avenue when an 18-year-old suspected gang member was wounded by someone riding a bicycle. That shooting touched off a series of retaliatory attacks and led the Violent Crimes Unit to identify Phillip Grimes, 26, a member of a rival gang, as the suspect in the Aug. 6 shooting.
He was arrested Monday at an apartment on 10th Avenue after he threw a gun from the building. Police searched the residence and found an assault pistol and pistol grip pump shotgun, and two other suspected gang members were arrested.
Batts also praised Oakland officers and the other local, state and federal agencies involved in the apprehension of Union City gang member Andrew Barrientos, 20, now charged with shooting Fremont police Officer Todd Young last Friday in East Oakland. Barrientos was arrested Saturday afternoon in San Ysidro, just a few feet from the Mexican border on information developed by Oakland investigators.
Oakland Capt. Ersie Joyner III, who commanded the initial police response after Young was shot twice during a gunbattle with Barrientos, said Oakland police drove young to Highland Hospital because of the severity of his wounds and his loss of blood. He has undergone several surgeries, and Joyner said a surgeon told police that if Young had not gotten to the hospital when he did, he might have bled to death.
Batts also said that as the result of a gang and violent crime summit held last week in Oakland that involved numerous local, state and federal agencies, Oakland police could soon be getting outside help in its efforts "to focus on individuals driving up crime and taking them off the street."