OAKLAND — Two young gunmen entered an Airbnb rental in a north Oakland neighborhood over the weekend, opening fire and killing two Berkeley High brothers who were among 30 revelers at a 17-year-old’s birthday party.
Oakland police chief LeRonne Armstrong told reporters that the shooting began as an altercation at the high school or around the school some time earlier. It was not “gang or group related.”
“This is the result of the conflict that may have happened at the school previously,” he said. “We believe that three individuals came in a vehicle, entered the home, two of which began to fire rounds. We are following up to all leads related to this shooting and I believe we are going to apprehend those responsible for this heinous crime.”
“We got to get guns out of the hands of young people,” the chief continued. “It’s not just a police issue. That is an issue for families. These things start at home. In this moment, if we care about our children, we have to make sure they are safe. Far too many kids have access to guns.”
Armstrong said the gunmen “knew exactly the individuals they were seeking to shot.”
While investigators have continued to interview the survivors of the shooting, Armstrong said the suspects are yet to be identified.
Witnesses said the shooting happened on the second floor of a duplex located at 988 Apgar Street on Saturday night near the Oakland/Emeryville border.
Family members and a Berkeley High teacher said the two teenagers killed were brothers. The teacher said the two surviving wounded victims were also students.
Family and friends identified the two brothers as 17-year-old Jazy Soleto Garcia and 15-year-old Angel Soleto Garcia. Angel’s teacher said he was a sophomore at the school. The coroner’s office has not released their names pending notification of next of kin.
Neighbors said about 30 to 40 teens attended what was believed to be a birthday party that started around 8 o’clock Saturday night.
“It just started as commotion where young people were drinking and kind of gathering. (And then) breaking out into bickering and hostility. Before you know it, two guys just walked upstairs and started shooting at each other,” said neighbor and witness Martin Opsahl, who lives across the street.
School officials released a statement confirming the student deaths.
“We are deeply saddened to have learned that two Berkeley High School students and beloved members of the BUSD family lost their lives yesterday in a senseless act of gun violence,” wrote Superintendent Enikia Ford Morthel in an e-mail. “Our hearts go out to their family and everyone impacted by this tragedy. Because these were two of our own, we are all feeling this pain collectively and must hold each other especially close and care for one another.”
Sandra Loving, president of the Berkeley High PTSA, told KPIX in a statement Sunday evening: “We will all hold our children close tonight. We will work with the district and the Berkeley High administration to support all of our students through this heartbreaking time.”
The deaths came during another weekend of deadly shootings across the city. Two other shootings claimed a life and left another victim clinging to life.
City council member Dan Kalb said violent crimes in Oakland have gotten out of hand and it will take comprehensive strategy to make progress.
“It’s about intervention, prevention and enforcement and doing what we can at the federal, state and city level to get guns off the street,” he said. “It’s not easy but we have to redouble our efforts and invest more dollars to do what we can and I’m absolutely going to be a part of that effort.”
At the Apgar Street street shooting, arriving officers found multiple victims who sustained gunshot wounds.
“It sounded like two people who were exchanging gunfire. It sounded like there was at least two firearms,” Opsahl said.
Witnesses saw high-school-age boys and girls screaming and running from the house. We now know many of the teens were students from Berkeley High.
A crime scene cleanup worker who entered the apartment said there were still a lot of party decorations inside the two-bedroom apartment. He believed the shooting happened in the kitchen area.
“It was mostly just around the kitchen area is where we ended up seeing the majority of what was in there,” said Ricardo De Luna Jr., a cleaner with Diablo Crime Scene Cleaners. The Walnut Creek company was hired by the city and property owner to clean blood stains in the house and on the sidewalk.
“(There was) a bunch of beer cases out in front and I was like ‘here we go.’ You just never think it would evolve into something like this,” Opsahl said.
Both wounded teens were in stable condition Sunday, according to police.
The shooting came during a surge of deadly violence on Oakland streets. After the latest shootings, 12 victims have died over the past two weeks. The city has seen 99 homicides so far this year.
Six people were injured last week when at least two gunmen fired 30 rounds at a school campus in East Oakland.
Oakland police ask anyone with information about the shootings to call its homicide section at (510) 238-3821 or the department’s tip line at (510) 238-7950.
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