Crumpled vehicle parts lay on the sidewalk hours after a police pursuit in East Oakland ended in a fatality. Credit: Darwin BondGraham

An early morning police chase today in East Oakland ended in a serious crash that left one person dead: a bystander who had no involvement in the original incident. 

Oakland police were pursuing 23-year-old Oakland resident Jonathan Hernandez, who was wanted after being involved in a hit-and-run three days earlier. During that incident, Hernandez had allegedly brandished a gun at another driver. 

In a press conference this afternoon, Oakland Police Chief Leronne Armstrong said that on Friday, October 14, at 4 p.m. Hernandez collided with the rear end of another person’s vehicle at 73rd Avenue and International Boulevard. Hernandez allegedly got out of his car in a fit of road rage and approached the other person while brandishing a gun and threatening to shoot them. The victim called OPD and described Hernandez and his vehicle.

Officers obtained an arrest warrant for Hernandez and sought him over the weekend. They spotted Hernandez getting into his car this morning, but he sped away before they could apprehend him. 

According to Armstrong, their supervisors gave officers clearance to chase Hernandez. Oakland’s pursuit policy requires officers to ask for permission to chase a suspect because bystanders, officers, and suspects are often injured during such high-speed chases. 

During the chase, Hernandez allegedly collided with a pickup truck and killed a 44-year-old Oakland resident who died at the crash scene. OPD declined to provide the man’s name. Hernandez was arrested, and police said they recovered a firearm.

The person killed in the crash appeared to have been in a moving vehicle and was not one of the numerous unhoused people living on the street in cars and RVs at 69th Avenue and San Leandro Street.

Originally tweeted by Darwin BondGraham (@DarwinBondGraha) on October 17, 2022.

A man sitting in a car near the site of the collision told The Oaklandside this afternoon that he and others heard the crash and knew that a person had been killed. “Police were there immediately,” he said.

The owner of Dallaq Market convenience store a block away, Akram Dallaq, told The Oaklandside that this intersection is dangerous because unhoused people’s vehicles tend to block the roadway. 

“If someone wants to make a turn, it’s hard in either direction. It’s not a clean area,” Dallaq said. 

Experts say police chases are too risky, but OPD says this one was necessary

In an investigation of police chases by The Oaklandside, experts said that pursuits aren’t necessary in most cases, especially for minor crimes, because most suspects are eventually caught in a way that doesn’t endanger other motorists, pedestrians, or bicyclists. 

This is the second fatality during an Oakland police pursuit this year. On June 25, two rookie OPD officers chased 19-year-old Arnold Linaldi after a sideshow through the streets of Fruitvale. The officers allegedly did not have authorization from their supervisors to pursue Linaldi, who lost control of his car at 55th Avenue and International Boulevard and collided with a group of people on the sidewalk near a food truck. Airline worker Lolo Soakai was killed in the crash, and others were seriously injured. 

The two officers, who allegedly left the scene and later returned, were suspended, and an internal investigation is ongoing. The Alameda County District Attorney’s office charged Linaldi last month with vehicular manslaughter. No charges or discipline for the officers has been announced. 

But Armstrong said at today’s press conference that OPD decided to risk the pursuit this time because Hernandez had already collided with another person’s vehicle and threatened to use a gun on them. He said several other road rage incidents involving firearms have been reported to the department over the past couple of months. Shootings on highways have also increased this year.

“There was a warrant already for the felony threats [made by Hernandez] and the brandishing of the firearm,” Armstrong said. “Officers thought this person may be armed and dangerous, with a firearm. Our policy does allow officers to pursue vehicles that have been involved in a violent felony or have a firearm involved.”

The collision also knocked over a traffic signal at 69th Avenue and San Leandro Street. New traffic signal lights tend to cost the city between $500,000 and $600,000. Repair costs for old lights are not known. Credit: Darwin BondGraham

Armstrong noted that the incident will be examined by an OPD review board at some point to determine if any policies were violated. “All areas of this pursuit are being investigated by this department,” he said.

In recent weeks, OPD has stepped up its pursuit of people threatening violence with guns. “Our numbers demonstrate how effective our three-week operation has been. We have arrested 74 people and have recovered 48 firearms off the streets of Oakland,” Armstrong said during today’s press conference. “Our level of focus is purely on removing firearms from our community and trying to arrest those that are using firearms in our community.”

Jose Fermoso covers road safety, transportation, and public health for The Oaklandside. His previous work covering tech and culture has appeared in publications including The Guardian, The New York Times, and One Zero. Jose was born and raised in Oakland and is the host and creator of the El Progreso podcast, a new show featuring in-depth narrative stories and interviews about and from the perspective of the Latinx community.

Before joining The Oaklandside as News Editor, Darwin BondGraham was a freelance investigative reporter covering police and prosecutorial misconduct. He has reported on gun violence for The Guardian and was a staff writer for the East Bay Express. He holds a doctorate in sociology from UC Santa Barbara and was the co-recipient of the George Polk Award for local reporting in 2017. He is also the co-author of The Riders Come Out at Night, a book examining the Oakland Police Department's history of corruption and reform.