Condition Oakland

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#1
Condition Oakland (I'm really sick of being shot at)

Arrow's crazy story has inspired me to write about my own traumatic experience dealing with assholes wielding guns. I wrote it for a zine so there are a few tangents and its not super straight forward.

"Put my ear to the door. I just heard hotrods and gunshots and sirens. People kill me these days. There are keys in their eyes but they're locked from the inside."

That summer there was a lot of drinking. A lot of loving and fighting too. I would wake up in the morning as the sweaty sun started to beat down into the warehouse, shining so brightly through barred windows even the blackout curtains never seemed to keep it out. Bruised fingers buttoned rumpled clothes and rubbed the crumbs of sleep from tired eyes before pushing the security door closed and stumbling into the July heat. Gus and I would saunter down International, sometimes sharing a few tacos from Sinaloa. In those early afternoons I was always happy to like carnitas and sesos as I thought of the dietary mishaps that would occur with visiting bands comprised of vegan kids, who would order their burritos to one of two reactions: If the men were cooking there was no bother to conceal their mutterings of 'faggot' in spanish or if the sweet, old woman with the deeply lined face was there, she simply thought they were too poor to pay for flesh and would secret away some pollo or asada in their tortillas, grinning toothlessly as she imagined their delight at finding her gifts.

Wiping the grease from my mouth and watching it dribble, orange, down Gus's beard we'd amble down the avenues, him always a few feet ahead, eighteen blocks to our favorite bar in the fruitpacking district. Merchant's has been around forever. A dank and dimly lit drinking hole, save for the open front door allowing a few rays to shine in, a hundred years of well worn dirt and graffitti decorate the walls. Gus would trot over to the spindly, long dead spruce and contemplate a few minutes before plucking out one of the cheap, stuffed toys from the branches, prizes from winning runs on the claw machine, placed there for the various canine regulars. As I sipped gin and lemonade and pulled armfuls of books out of my bag, he'd happily collapse in a furry panting pile at my bare feet and gnaw on his new possession.

I liked that no one said shit when I put my feet up on the tables or spent four hours on two drinks and that in those afternoons I so rarely ran into any of the folks I tried to avoid at the other punk bar. Usually around three we'd walk home, running into Clint who would challenge me to rooftop beer and taco contests, wherein we'd lay on the neighbors sticky tarred shingles and down 32s of tecate and avocado laden fried pork until we had to spend some quality time huddled together, laying on the cool tiles of the bathroom, systematically trading off our post kneeling before the toilet and excorsizing the offending bile and regurgitations.

On this particular day, the 11th, I instead walked over to the place of business of the man I had been with off and on, rather tumultuously for about two years. Opening the door the cold air fought against the swelter of the day and Gus's nails clacked against the black and white tiled door, adding to the constant hum of machines. The air reeked of green soap and disinfectant. After a brief kiss we promptly got into a proper screaming match about who's house we would stay out. As per usual, seeing as how he was both insecure and irrational, I unfortunately won this round.

That night at eleven, just as the cement finally stopped radiating the heat of the day and the light pollution tints the city skies red, Devon arrived, presence announced by the skidding of bike tires. Everyone else was gone, off at their respective girlfriends homes. After days of pissing blood from a recurring UTI/bladder infection, we slept in Joe's room so I wouldn't have to climb down the precariously placed and rickety ladder every time I had to piss which had slid out from beneath me on several previous occasions, leaving a few small scars on my chin. I made tea in the kitchen, or what passed for one. The whole place had been nothing but a large room with plywood floors and a basement filled with black mold, bum shit and the remains of some long since abandoned weed growing op. And we made this place our home, the others first and me later, slowly adding to the empty space. Rooms were built and will put in the bathroom and stove. Holes were knocked in the walls for the washing machine, so a hose could be put into the toilet to drain water for the laundry. Everyone forgot at least once, flooding the living room with inches of soapy water.

In the blue light of the TV we fucked and then tried to fall asleep against each other but it was too hot out to touch. Clammy bodies on opposite sides of the bed we lay there staring at the ceiling for a while. As we started to doze, a few minutes after one there was a loud banging sound, similar to what we had heard the night before, only so much closer this time around. After a few seconds of disorientation it became abundantly clear that there was someone trying to break into the house. Devon locked the door to our room, a thin particle board door, one that even I could have punched through with little effort. I was trying to call 911 for the first time ever and it seemed to take forever to connect. Living in a city with a different area code than my phone, I had to be transfered twice before talking with an operator that could help and they stayed on the line, assuring us there was someone on the way. In the meantime I was trying to hold Gus's jaw shut to keep him from barking, hoping whoever the fuck was in our house wouldn't find us there. Devon was bracing the door shut when we heard the yelling. At the time we didn't know how many people were there. Three? Four? And someone tried the door handle.

"Shit! Shit! There be fuckin' people here! Shit"

The next few moments were seconds but they stretched out in slow motion, in that really fake way that happens in movies. I thought there were firecrackers going off, that Devon had chased out after them. There were earsplitting bangs and lights flashing and people were running and I couldn't see him. I had let go of Gus and heard liquid splashing. I thought the dog was pissing, afraid of the noise. The operator was asking what was happening. When the figurative dust cleared, I saw Devon on the ground, slumped against that cheap door, blood spouting, spurting in arcs from his head. It was like a fountain. Not a big one, but a drinking one, a four inch arc maybe, spilling crimson on the dirty ground. And I was screaming and naked and on the ground with him, trying to hold my palm against the hole in his skull, trying to keep his brains and fluid inside him and thinking I was pissing myself but it was his blood leaking hot and red all over my body and running down my legs. And the sirens were screaming. Someone was banging on the door and I was crying. I thought they had come back, that I was going to die, just like I thought Devon was going to die. It was probably the only time in my life I have been grateful to see the cops. The uniform was pushing the door open and I was trying to pull Devon's limp body away and shaking. The EMTs rushed in and this part is kind of a blur as the officer was holding me but they were checking for signs of responsiveness and through his wheezing and bleeding they got him to say his name, however slurred. They put him in the ambulance but wouldn't let me go with him.

I saw myself in the mirror. Covered in blood, all over the place, my face, my hands, my feet. My hair was matted with it. I was still naked. There were seven cops cars, another ambulance and firetruck outside, the lights flashing and reflecting off the walls. I was made to stay and go over my statement again and again as I watched Gus lap at the bloody footprints leading to the loading dock, which I later learned from the surveillance tapes turned over by the business next door was where the invaders (nine young adolescent boys) had kicked their way in, managing to break through the beams by running and jumping at it four or five at a time.

There were over twenty rounds shot into our room from three different guns. Devon was hit at basically a point blank range. My roommate, Will came to pick me up since the cops wouldn't let me drive anywhere and we went to the hospital and cried our eyes out in the waitingroom at the ICU, while Devon was being put into a medically induced coma which they ended up not being able to bring him out of on their own. I recall it taking me a long time to be able to call Devon's mother. I was so scared to tell her what happened to her son. The next few days and weeks were filled with medical terminology and a hundred punks camped outside the hopsital. Craniotomies and peripherally inserted central catheters and brain shunts. They said he would die. Then they said he would never wake up. I didn't wash his blood off of my body until a month later when he finally started responding to stimulus tests. A little while later he opened his eyes for the first time. They pointed different directions. They couldn't take the bullet out of his brain lest it cause further injury. It was sad and scary. It still is. It took a long time in the hospital and then a long time in a rehabilitation center and then a long time of me taking care of him. We were both really different afterwards. He was angry and withdrawn and fucked up. Things aren't the same and they never will be. And they never caught the kids that did it, despite there being video surveillance and the fact that they dropped a CELL PHONE on the way out. wtf right? Apparently more than 80% of homicide cases in Oakland are never solved. And since Devon wasn't dead, it was only an assault charge and not high priority. In the state of California, there is no provided service for crime scene clean up except in the event of a homicide. So the next day my best friend went and cleaned up the 3 by 6 foot puddle of blood on the ground, took up the flooring and removed the door. I'll save the recuperation and and the events that followed for some other time.

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mylon

Lawn Care Enthusiast
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#2
i'm sorry. that's really intense. that pisses me off they didn't find the kids, especially since they were so sloppy about it. any idea why they were there in the first place?
 
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skiptown
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#4
i'm sorry. that's really intense. that pisses me off they didn't find the kids, especially since they were so sloppy about it. any idea why they were there in the first place?
the business in the other unit in the warehouse (not related to us) was a pretty largescale medical marijuana growing facilitiy. They were broken into the night before. I can only imagine they thought we were part of the same thing. We could hear them being like "wtf" when they were in the house. It was pretty obvious that they were mistaken and they shot at us because the were young freaked the fuck out kids who didn't think it was a place of residence.
 
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#5
Just read about this in the East Bay Express from the dude who got shots point of view. Turns out he recovered really well and is a badass tattoo artist here in oakland now. Pretty crazy story. I'm squatting probably within ten blocks from where this happened right now and after reading this I 've found myself a lot more wary of that spot
 
Joined
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#7
I also just read about this in the east bay express, actually i think this story has created a lot of buzz around that publication. its the first time ive had multiple people come up to me and say "have you read that story in the east bay express?!" It's so disheartening to know that those people were never caught. fuck oakland police, seriously. that seems like the easiest case to solve EVER. it said in the paper that the cameras even caught the license plate of the vehicle used the night of the shooting AND the night before when they broke into the cannabis dispensary. Plus the cell phone?! even though you wrote that story like 2 years ago, thanks for sharing and sorry you had to go through that.
 

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