6 people wounded after multiple shots fired near group of Oakland schools
Hundreds of students went into lockdown as police swarmed the grounds searching for the shooter who is still at large
By Eliyahu Kamisher and Jakob Rodgers
East Bay Times
OAKLAND, Calif. — In one of the Bay Area's worst school shootings in recent memory, six people were wounded after multiple shots rang out near a group of East Oakland schools on Wednesday afternoon, sending hundreds of students into lockdown as police swarmed the grounds searching for a shooter who hours later had not been captured.
Some of the victims were found inside one of the campuses, but it is not clear if they are school staff or adult students. No children were shot, authorities said.
"Everyone thought it was fireworks — it's almost Halloween," one 14-year-old ninth grader said. He recalled hearing two shots, then a break, and then seven more in quick succession, almost as if they came from an automatic weapon. "The shots were loud," the boy added.
Three people were taken by ambulance to Highland Hospital, a hospital administrator said, and another three victims were taken to Eden Medical Center, according to the Alameda County Sheriff's Office.
As of early Wednesday evening, two victims remained hospitalized with life-threatening injuries, while one had been released from a hospital, two others were pending release and another was still receiving care for non-life threatening injuries, Oakland police said.
The gunfire erupted shortly before 1 p.m. on the 8200 block of Fontaine Street at an Oakland Unified School District building housing three campuses.
Oakland Police Assistant Chief Darren Allison said authorities are "actively looking for at least one shooter," but he added other individuals may be involved. He said the shooting occurred at a portion of the school complex called Rudsdale, with some victims located inside the high school.
"We have our Ceasefire teams, as well as our violent crime operations teams actively in this moment, following up on leads looking to bring to justice those responsible for this heinous act," Allison said.
Jules Milstead, a coordinator of the school district's school safety officers, known as "culture keepers," said the shooting started after an altercation between students. "A student came to campus, and there was an altercation with other students, and shots went off," he said. Milstead said the victims include a mix of students and staff, but Oakland police only confirmed that the victims are "affiliated" with Rudsdale.
As students and staff realized there was an active shooter in the area, they jumped into lockdown protocol, locking their doors, darkening the lights and staying quiet.
"You lock the doors and make sure you don't answer for anyone," said Antonio Ramirez, a school counselor who huddled in a classroom with worried high school students for around 40 minutes. "We just waited until cops were coming door to door making sure things were clear and walking us out."
More than 600 students are enrolled in the schools, according to district records, and the campuses include students at risk of not graduating, who attend Rudsdale Continuation, recently arrived immigrants between the ages of 16 and 21 "who have fled their home countries because of violence and instability" and have come to Rudsdale Newcomer High School, and students at BayTech Charter, a 6th through 12th grade school.
A 10th grade student at BayTech Charter thought the lockdown was "just a drill" until he heard a teacher "crying in fear."
Multiple police officers carrying weapons later entered the student's classroom and called out, "Everybody hands up," he said. "We all walked out, and we saw dozens of cop cars," he said.
The latest shooting comes amid a wave of gun violence in Oakland that on Wednesday touched hundreds of students who were deeply shaken by the day's events. Last week four people were shot to death in separate incidents across the city occurring within 18 hours. The city has seen 96 homicides this year, according to a police tally.
At a press conference outside Highland Hospital, Alameda Health System CEO James Jackson was frank about the rising toll of gun violence. "We've seen almost a doubling of the violent-crime victims that we're seeing here at our facility," Jackson said. "So something has changed."
Wednesday's shooting also comes less than a day after a press conference where Oakland police Chief LeRonne Armstrong announced a plan to solve crimes faster and increase public safety by adding more officers to high-crime neighborhoods in East and West Oakland, beefing up OPD's criminal investigations division and holding officers after their shifts end. Gang and group violence committed by a small percentage of Oakland's population, police say, has been fueling the recent uptick in violence.
It is the second shooting on an Oakland school campus in nearly a month. On Aug. 29, a 13-year-old boy attending Madison Park Academy, a middle school, was injured in a shooting, and a 12-year-old boy was later arrested. The 12-year-old faces several felony charges in that incident, including discharge of a firearm.
Oakland politicians condemned the recent shooting deaths, saying more needs to be done in a city that has spent decades trying to tame gun violence. In recent years, the number of annual homicides had dramatically dropped but began to rise in 2020. Last year was the deadliest year in Oakland since 2006.
"We have a historic investment into violence-prevention intervention," said Councilmember Treva Reid, whose district includes the cluster of schools hit by the shooting on Wednesday. "We need to double that."
Oakland Councilman Loren Taylor, who arrived near the campus later Wednesday, called the level of recent gun violence "out of control."
"The situations are risking our friends, our neighbors, our babies," said Taylor, who represents an East Oakland council district. "This is spilling into our schools."
In the hours after the shooting, teachers and school staff gathered nearby the school. One administrator, who declined to give her name, held back tears as she described announcing the lockdown over her school's loudspeaker system.
Chris, a special education teacher who declined to give his last name, shuttled students to a staging area for their parents to pick them up. After officially clearing the campus around 5 p.m., police said all students were accounted for.
"It's just a sad reality," Chris said. "I never want kids to endure this kind of thing."
Lori Smith, the principal at BayTech Charter School, said she already is processing how to move her students and staff to a place of healing.
"Students may not show emotion right away," said Smith. Her advice to parents of students struggling in the aftermath of the shooting: "Hug them and hold them tighter."
In a statement Wednesday night, the school district said there will be no classes Thursday for schools at the district's King Estate campus.
Police and Crime Stoppers of Oakland are offering up to $30,000 for information leading to the arrest of any suspect. Anyone with information may call police at 510-238-3821 or 510-238-7950 or 510-238-3426 or Crime Stoppers at 510-777-8572.
Staff photo editor Dylan Bouscher contributed to this report.
(c)2022 the Contra Costa Times (Walnut Creek, Calif.)
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