Police tape blocks the crime scene outside the King Estates campus on Wednesday, Sept. 29, 2022. Credit: Ashley McBride

Oakland city officials and school district leaders held a press conference on Thursday morning to answer questions about a school shooting in the East Oakland hills on Wednesday afternoon that injured six people—including two who sustained critical injuries—and sent shockwaves throughout the city and Oakland’s school community.

A number of questions remain about the shooting, including how many shooters there were, their motivations for the attack, and the exact identities of the victims. 

But important details emerged that help to paint a picture of the tragedy, some gleaned from surveillance video now being reviewed by the Oakland Police Department.

The schools and campus

The shooting occurred around 12:45 p.m. on Wednesday at the Rudsdale High School building on the King Estates campus, which houses three schools: Rudsdale, Sojourner Truth Independent Study, and BayTech charter school, a 6th-to-12th grade school. 

Rudsdale is an alternative school that serves newcomer students who have recently immigrated to the U.S. and older students who are at risk of not graduating from traditional high schools. 

The Rudsdale campus will be closed indefinitely until the damages from the shooting are repaired, OUSD spokesman John Sasaki said. 

More information about the victims

Police believe the shooters came to the campus to target a specific person or people, but that the six victims were not the intended targets. 

All of the victims were 18 or older, confirmed Oakland Police Department Chief LeRonne Armstrong. They included two students, one counselor, a security guard, and two others who worked at the school. Police did not divulge the victims’ ages. By Thursday morning, three victims had been released from the hospital. Two are still in serious condition, and one is in stable condition. 

Armstrong declined to provide more details about the victims, citing concern for their safety. “It’s important we don’t identify who they are,” he said, “because the people responsible for this are still out in the community, armed and dangerous.”

Several reporters at Thursday’s press conference asked about reports that police had recovered text messages from the victims’ phones from school officials warning them not to talk to police. OUSD spokesman John Sasaki stated that that was false.

“If you’re asking me if our school told students not to talk to police, that is not correct,” Sasaki said.

Armstrong declined to state what evidence has been collected, citing the ongoing investigation. 

At least three suspects, but questions remain

On Wednesday afternoon, OPD responded to the campus shooting along with Alameda County Sheriff’s deputies and California Highway Patrol officers. Shortly after arriving, officers determined that the suspects were no longer at the scene, OPD chief Armstrong said. 

When they entered the school building, officers offered aid to those injured, called ambulances for the victims, and evacuated students and staff from the building. Some of the classroom doors were locked but officers used tools to breach the locked doors to clear the entire campus. 

“When we arrived at the school, there was a need for keys to enter certain classrooms,” Armstrong said. “Our officers did not wait to receive keys, they used breaching tools in order to enter every classroom and conduct a thorough search of the entire campus to ensure no individuals were barricaded on the campus and the entire campus was safe.” 

After a school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, in May, responding officers were harshly criticized for waiting for a key to enter a classroom where children were trapped with the shooter. 

There were at least two shooters and one driver, police said, but they haven’t ruled out the possibility that there were more shooters. Armstrong said OPD believes the shooting was gang-related and connected to ongoing violence in the city.

Armstrong said that the suspects have not been identified or arrested, and police don’t know their connection to the school.

The suspects appeared to use handguns that had been modified with extended magazines, which are illegal, Armstrong added. 

“There were over 30 rounds fired on this campus. That is wholly unacceptable,” Armstrong said. “We thank god that many more students were not injured as a result of this action.”

Another violent incident occurred at the campus in August

Wednesday’s shooting is not the only violent episode at the King Estates campus in recent weeks. Police officers responded last month to a stabbing incident that also involved a gun and made an arrest, Armstrong said. 

He did not say whether the department thinks the two events might be connected. 

“We had no information leading us to believe there would be a shooting on campus,” said Armstrong. “We responded to the call when it came. But we did have a prior incident about a month ago.”

OPD has video footage of the shooting

Armstrong also said on Thursday that OPD is in possession of a surveillance video depicting the incident.

In the video, the police chief said two people can be seen “breaching the entry” of the Rudsdale campus. A third person in a driveaway vehicle was also captured in the video. 

“It appears the shooters came into the front entry. They then identified an individual or individuals and began to fire. We’re still trying to determine which individual they were targeting,” said Armstrong. 

“We do know they were coming up there to take some violent action against someone,” he added. “But we don’t know what [motivated] the shooting.” 

The department is still reviewing the video footage, and Armstrong said OPD plans to make the video available soon and ask for the public’s help in identifying the shooters. “It will be forthcoming,” he said.

Ashley McBride reports on education equity for The Oaklandside. She covered the 2019 Oakland Unified School District teachers’ strike as a breaking news reporter for the San Francisco Chronicle. More recently, she was an education reporter for the San Antonio Express-News where she covered several local school districts, charter schools, and the community college system. McBride earned her master’s degree in journalism from Syracuse University, has held positions at the Palm Beach Post and the Poynter Institute, and is a recent Hearst Journalism Fellow.

Jacob Simas is Managing Editor of The Oaklandside. He joined us from Univision, where he led social-impact initiatives and established the Rise Up: Be Heard journalism training program at Fusion for young people and community organizers in underserved areas of California. He was a senior editor and director of youth and community media at New America Media, where he led a community news network that amplified student and youth reporting in California news deserts. He is an advisory board member for Youth Beat, a graduate of UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism, and a former producer with KPFA's First Voice apprenticeship program.