Henry K. Lee
Oakland police shot and killed a drunken-driving suspect after trying unsuccessfully to pull him over in the Fruitvale district early Friday, the second fatal shooting involving officers in less than a week, authorities said.
Mack “Jody” Woodfox III, 27, was shot several times after he failed to comply with police orders and appeared to be reaching for his waistband, police said. But investigators conceded that they had found no gun, either on Woodfox or in the car he was driving.
Woodfox’s family expressed outrage Friday, saying the father of two sons was killed for no reason. “He wears his pants baggy,” said his aunt, Toni Woodfox, 52, of Oakland. “He was probably holding his pants up, and they shot him. I am very upset.”
Tonesha Marshall, 22, said, “I loved my cousin. The police, they just kill innocent people. They don’t know how to do the correct thing.”
The shooting happened about 3:50 a.m. near Fruitvale Avenue and East 17th Street. Police were chasing a suspected drunken driver in a 1993 Buick Regal. But a sergeant decided to cancel the pursuit, Police Chief Wayne Tucker said.
But a short time later, an officer spotted the car traveling south on Fruitvale and began following it, Tucker said.
D. Bryant, 50, a homeless woman who didn’t want to give her full first name, said she had been sitting near the Kragen Auto Parts store at the corner of Fruitvale Avenue and Foothill Boulevard when she saw the Buick speed past her with a police car right behind it.
Bryant said the driver had tried to turn onto East 18th Street, realized it was a dead-end and swerved back onto Fruitvale. The car then suddenly stopped at East 17th Street.
As an officer rushed up to the car, Woodfox jumped out and began running diagonally across Fruitvale Avenue, Bryant and police said.
The officer yelled, “Halt!” and then almost immediately fired six shots, Bryant said. Woodfox fell in the middle of the street in front of the Miraculous Foundation church. He was taken to Highland Hospital in Oakland, where he was pronounced dead.
“The boy didn’t have a gun or nothing,” Bryant said. “The boy was scared.”
Tucker, interviewed after a swearing-in ceremony for 30 new officers at the Scottish Rite Center near Lake Merritt, declined to provide details about the shooting or identify the officer who opened fire.
Tucker said the circumstances that led up to the shooting were “a little murky. We’re not sure what caused the shooting, what the state of mind of the officers were, what they thought they had.”
The Alameda County district attorney is investigating the shooting along with police. The shooting was the second involving police since Saturday night, when officers killed Oakland resident Lesly Allen, 21, after a car chase.
Authorities said Allen was a passenger in a car being driven by Vernon Dunbar, 22, also of Oakland. Officers tried to pull Dunbar over in East Oakland about 9:30 p.m., but he drove away and led police on a chase to Davis Street and Doolittle Drive in San Leandro, police said.
There, Dunbar crashed into a police cruiser and allegedly tried to run over an officer, authorities said. Three officers shot both him and Allen, who died Monday at a hospital. A .40-caliber semiautomatic handgun was found in the car, police said.
Dunbar survived and was booked on suspicion of being a felon in possession of a firearm, carrying a concealed firearm, carrying a loaded firearm, altering identification on a weapon, assault with a deadly weapon and felony evading police.
Harry Stern, an attorney for the Oakland Police Officers Association, said: “Oakland officers, like other citizens, aren’t required to sit still and wait until their attackers get off the first shot. The law, policy and training allow them to act defensively to protect their lives when faced with a threat.”
Including the two shootings since Saturday, Oakland police have shot and killed five people this year. There were five fatal officer-involved shootings in the city in 2007.
The latest police-involved shooting was the third fatal incident in Oakland in four hours, bringing to 77 the number of homicides in the city this year – seven more than at this time in 2007. Police shootings are included in Oakland’s official homicide total, even if authorities later conclude that the killings were justified.
The first incident happened about 11:50 p.m. Thursday, when Fidel Jimenez Lopez, 36, of Oakland was slain at East 17th Street and Seminary Avenue in East Oakland. The victim was shot near a memorial for another homicide victim, authorities said.
About 2 a.m. Friday, Arnell Durham, 24, was shot and killed near 81st Avenue and Plymouth Street in East Oakland.
In statement Friday, Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums said it was critical for anyone with information about any of the shootings to come forward.
“When a life is taken away, our community is diminished, and we cannot allow ourselves to become victims of fear,” Dellums said. “In times like these, I urge community members to stand together in a significant showing of strength and unity. Failure in this struggle is not an option.”