Update, Oct. 22: The young woman who was wounded in Wednesday night’s shooting has died. Berkeleyside will continue to follow the story.
Original story: Community members were in shock Wednesday night after a 19-year-old pregnant woman, whose family has deep roots in the neighborhood, was critically wounded in a drive-by shooting on Prince Street in South Berkeley.
The woman was in a car with a baby and multiple family members, a longtime Prince Street resident told Berkeleyside, when the shooting happened just before 7 p.m. Police said someone in another vehicle fired an estimated 17 bullets at them over a period of about 20 seconds.
The woman was rushed “Code 3” — with lights and sirens — to a local hospital for emergency medical treatment, said Officer Byron White, Berkeley police spokesman.
BPD has not confirmed that the woman is pregnant or shared any information about her medical condition, but a distraught family member at the scene shortly after 10 p.m. said the young woman was not expected to survive.
The longtime Prince Street resident, an older African American man who did not want to be identified due to the nature of the incident, said he had been watching a baseball game on TV when he heard the gunfire break out.
“It didn’t sound right,” he said, “because of the rapid fire.”
The man said he has lived on the block his entire life, attending Lincoln Elementary (now Malcolm X) right up the street, then Willard and Berkeley High. He described it as a quiet place inhabited by working people.
BPD got multiple reports about the 7 p.m. gunfire and found the woman who had been wounded in a dark-colored sedan that had come to rest against a parked car on Prince between Harper and Ellis Street. Police were unable to say as of publication time whether the woman was driving the sedan or simply a passenger.
Too many guns on the streets, says family friend
Police had Prince Street blocked off with yellow tape for two blocks, between King and Harper Streets, until about 10 p.m., when a flat-bed tow truck driver arrived to remove the wounded woman’s car. Police were in the area for hours, speaking with witnesses, documenting the scene and identifying surveillance cameras that might have recorded the shooting.
On Prince Street just west of Ellis, at least eight yellow markers had been placed carefully in the street to mark the location of casings and other evidence.
Todd Walker, a longtime Berkeley resident and youth football coach who has been nationally recognized for his efforts to help local youth succeed against the odds, pulled up to Prince and Ellis at about 9:30 p.m. to try to find the family of the wounded woman. He had already been to the hospital twice, he said, but hadn’t seen them.
Walker told Berkeleyside he’s known the woman’s family — including her mother, her grandmother and even her great grandmother, who is still alive — since 1967. He said he had known her since she was born.
“Sweet as she can be,” he said, still grappling with the difficult news.
Walker has worked for the past 15 years in a funeral home in Oakland and said 2020 has been perhaps the worst he’s seen. High-powered guns have become prevalent, he said, and access to them is much too easy. Walker said city leaders and police must step up their efforts to stop the violence.
“I bury kids every day. Now the wounds are bigger than ever,” he said. “Antioch. Richmond. Stockton. Now we here in Berkeley.”
Walker said fixing up recreation centers, investing more money in youth sports programs, and letting kids play football on local fields — not currently allowed — would be some steps in the right direction. He said he and others who are part of the Berkeley Jr. Jackets youth football program are trying to provide those opportunities, but don’t get enough local support. And reaching the children young is the only way to stop the violence, he added.
“We need to start saving these little kids,” Walker said. “I want city officials to get off their butts. This is on their watch.”
“20 shots heard, people screaming heard”
Just before 8 p.m., a Berkeley police officer speaking over the radio said he had reviewed audio of the shooting and heard 17 shots fired within about 20 seconds.
A few minutes later, South Berkeley City Councilmember Ben Bartlett told Berkeleyside he had gone to Prince Street to try to find out what had happened and to speak with neighbors there.
“A woman was gravely injured. My prayers go out to the victim and her family,” he said, adding that the police “have a number of leads already.”
One local resident, writing in the Berkeleyside comments, described the shooting Wednesday: “I live just a block away. The shots were in such quick succession (more of a burst than a succession of shots – except for the last few), that I was certain it had to be fireworks, or at least seriously hoped it was fireworks. There was a female loudly screaming immediately afterwards, and again I was hoping that it was either drunk people cheering, or some mentally ill person yelling at the people with the fireworks, but now I’m left with the reality it quite possibly was the screams of the critically injured victim.”
In an initial radio broadcast about the gunfire, a dispatcher shared preliminary information with officers: “20 shots heard,” she said, “people screaming heard.”
Whoever was responsible for the shooting was gone when police arrived. No arrests have been made.
Police ask anyone with information to call BPD’s Homicide Detail at 510-981-5741.
Gunfire has been on the rise in Berkeley in recent years: In 2018, the city had 20 shootings. Last year there were 28.
There have been more than 30 other shootings in Berkeley already in 2020, with more than two months to go before the year’s end. Prior to Wednesday, three people had been killed and at least 10 had been wounded.
Last year, one person was killed and three people were wounded in Berkeley shootings.
Berkeleyside updated this story after publication due to the developing nature of events.