Police Chief Darren Allison, wearing a police uniform, stands as a podium in Oakland City Hall. Behind him are a police captain, Kentrell Killens, the chief of violence prevention for Oakland, and City Administrator Jestin Johnson.
Oakland Police Interim Chief of Police Darren Allison speaks during a press conference on July 19, 2023 addressing a recent day of four homicides in Oakland, Calif. Credit: Florence Middleton

Four people were killed in Oakland during the first 10 hours of Wednesday, marking a spree of violence that was unusual even for a city that has struggled for decades with homicides and gun violence.

Wednesday afternoon, three hours after the latest deadly shooting, public safety leaders gathered at City Hall to say they believe the city’s approach to gun violence is effective, but that much more needs to be done.

“We’re here to acknowledge a number of unacceptable incidents affecting our community,” said City Administrator Jestin Johnson. “We are here to also let the community know what we’re doing to address these issues.”

Wednesday’s violence included the discovery at 1:30 a.m. of a man and woman both found shot to death in a residence on 89th Avenue; a shooting victim found by police near 18th Avenue and International Boulevard; and a person who was shot and killed on the 2100 block of 106th Avenue.

David Elzy, the captain of OPD’s Criminal Investigation Division, said the three shootings appear to be unrelated. OPD isn’t releasing further details, such as the names of victims.

According to OPD, there have been 57 homicides in Oakland so far this year. At this same time last year, there were 64. Nationally, homicides appear to be falling after three years of increases, but it’s too soon to tell if 2023 will end with Oakland also seeing a decline in violence.

Interim Police Chief Darren Allison said OPD’s strategy to address gun violence is centered on its Violent Crimes Operations Center, which works to identify and apprehend people who commit shootings and homicides. OPD relies on ballistics data gleaned from shell casings and bullets to track firearms used in multiple shootings and identify the links between different incidents.

Allison said that while some shootings are seemingly random and result from personal disputes, most gun-related crimes in Oakland are actually caused by a small number of repeat offenders. Allison said that OPD will continue to use its Ceasefire program, which partners with community-based groups to identify and provide support services for these individuals, and targets those who decline services with arrest and prosecution.

“We know that gang and group shootings still represent the majority of violence in the City,” said Allison. “We know that, working with our community and our law enforcement stakeholders, the Ceasefire strategy is effective in reducing gun violence.”

Oakland’s recently adopted 2023-2025 budget maintained full funding for Ceasefire, said Allison. However, the department is currently only able to staff three of the four Ceasefire squads due to extended absences and other staffing issues that affect almost every OPD unit. Each squad consists of eight officers and a sergeant.

Kentrell Killens, the chief of Oakland’s Department of Violence Prevention, said his team is working alongside OPD to reduce violence. He said DVP violence interrupters and DVP contractors from organizations like Youth Alive responded to all three of the shootings on Wednesday to identify victims and others who may need services. 

After the shooting on 18th Avenue, DVP workers went to Highland Hospital where they made contact with a person who may have been wounded in the incident.

“We grieve with the families, we grieve with the communities, and most importantly, we engage with individuals to potentially reduce all forms of retaliatory violence,” said Killens.

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.