Oakland Juneteenth shooting: 15 shot at celebration

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By Yosi Yahoudai
Founder and Managing Partner

OAKLAND, Calif. – A Juneteenth celebration at Lake Merritt in Oakland took a dramatic turn as gunshots rang out, leaving 15 people injured.

“This type of behavior and level of violence is unacceptable,” Oakland Police Chief Floyd Mitchell said. “The opportunity to celebrate with family and friends should never be marred by gunfire.”

The Oakland Police Department said over two dozen officers had been monitoring the crowd of 5,000 people celebrating at the lake on Wednesday. 

“The crowds were peaceful until around 8:15 p.m. when an illegal sideshow involving vehicles and motorbikes occurred near Grand Avenue and Bellevue Avenue,” the police department said in a press release.

Officers said the situation escalated as the crowd became hectic and several fights broke out. Then shots rang out with 50 shell casings recovered.

The Oakland Fire Department said it transported at least four gunshot victims to a local hospital. Police also took some victims to nearby hospitals. Other victims were self-transported.

At an afternoon press conference on Thursday, OPD Chief Floyd Mitchell said that during the sideshow, which mostly involved ATVs and dirt bikes, someone walked onto and damaged the hood of a car. This led to the occupants getting out and assaulting that person. Then came the gunfire.

More than 80 of the 100 officers available nearby responded to the scene, according to a spokesperson for the department.

“We had people there,” said Chief Mitchell, “But to say that we could be at every place at every time, we cannot do that.”

Tamia Robinson of Richmond said her friend was shot and killed at the event. She said there were sideshows, fights, and fireworks going off, which added to the confusion. She said she ran from the sound of the fireworks. Police have not confirmed any fatalities, only that 15 people were shot, and officers were injured.

“So we ran in this direction, next thing you hear another boom boom boom from the other side of the lake,” she recalled.

Robinson said she had arrived at the celebration around 7 p.m. and noticed things started to go south around 8:45 p.m.

“We all came out here to celebrate our culture… Our freedom. You see people are still out here singing and dancing. This is not fun. Just two or three years ago this happened, and it seems to be a repeating cycle. There needs to be a change in the community,” she said.

Robinson also claimed police used excessive force. However, the police department said officers used minimal force, just enough to quell the crowd.

Oakland police said the victims’ injuries range from minor gunshot flesh wounds and loss of fingers to critical gunshot wounds. The victims’ ages range from 20 to 30-years-old.

No arrests have been made. Police believe there were multiple shooters. 

The police department said after the shooting, officers tried to move the crowd to a safe area. During that process, some people in the crowd punched and pushed officers, resulting in minor injuries, officials said. 

“Some of the individuals in the crowd began attacking my officers,” Chief Mitchell said.

One woman was arrested for assaulting an officer.

“The events were not sanctioned gatherings,” the department wrote.

On Thursday, former Oakland Police Chief LeRonne Armstrong issued a statement saying it was a sad day for Oakland. 

“Oakland is a city in crisis. Crime, violence, shootings, uncontrolled homelessness, unmitigated encampments, the budget deficit and more,” Armstrong said. He pointed to failures of leadership in City Hall. The former police chief was fired by Mayor Sheng Thao in February 2023. Last month he filed paperwork to run for city council

Congresswoman Barbara Lee of Oakland wrote: “Heartbroken by the senseless violence in Oakland during a day meant for joy, freedom, and community. My thoughts are with the victims and their loved ones. We must act decisively to end gun violence and ensure safe spaces & public safety for all.”

In 2021, a shooting during a Juneteenth celebration at Lake Merritt left six people injured and a 22-year-old San Francisco man dead.

The question remains if OPD has the resources to handle a crowd of thousands, with Chief Mitchell acknowledging “That’s one of the things I am concerned about, and we are looking at as we move forward.”

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About the Author
Yosi Yahoudai is a founder and the managing partner of J&Y. His practice is comprised primarily of cases involving automobile and motorcycle accidents, but he also represents people in premises liability lawsuits, including suits alleging dangerous conditions of public property, third-party criminal conduct, and intentional torts. He also has expertise in cases involving product defects, dog bites, elder abuse, and sexual assault. He earned his Bachelor of Arts from the University of California and is admitted to practice in all California State Courts, and the United States District Court for the Southern District of California. If you have any questions about this article, you can contact Yosi by clicking here.