Another murder in Berkeley

Police examine bloody clothing left on ground after shooting

One man was killed and another was seriously injured Tuesday in a mid-morning shooting on Sacramento Street near Russell.

Two men were walking on the street near a neighborhood hang out called Johnson’s Barbershop around 8:43 a.m. when they were shot by two assailants, according to Sgt. Mary Kusmiss of the Berkeley Police Department.

The assailants ran south on Sacramento Street. The victims were transported to a local trauma center, where one was pronounced dead. Both the victims and assailants were black.

It was a particularly vicious gun battle as the assailants apparently fired close to 30 bullets at their victims.

Yellow plastic signs mark location of gun casings

Police would not release the names of the victims, but Berkeleyside learned from the many people clustered on the sidewalk after the shooting that the deceased is Gary Ferguson Jr., the son of Gary Ferguson Sr., a former heroin addict who once ran STEPS, a drug and alcohol rehab center on Dwight Way. The other victim is named Larry.* Their ages are not known.

Sgt. Kusmiss said police believe the assailants were targeting the victims and that it was not a random shooting of strangers. She commented that the shooting came at a time when the street is usually crowded with people.

“This is unusual for this community so early in the morning,” said Sgt. Kusmiss. “There were a number of community members going to school, going to work.”

The principal of Longfellow School a few blocks away saw all the news helicopters circling overhead, called police, and learned about the shootings. She pulled all the kids off the playground, according to BUSD spokesman Mark Coplan.

The 2900 block of Sacramento Street between Ashby and Russell in south Berkeley includes a strip of stores that include two barbershops across the street from one another, a Laundromat, Moses Chiropractic, the Accidental Injury Clinic, and other stores.

Kusmiss said a lot of people hang out on the street, but that police did not consider it a particularly dangerous neighborhood. There was a shooting outside Johnson’s Barbershop last year, she said. Police do consider it a place of “concern,” she said.

A neighbor whose daughter was shot nearby last year disagreed with that assessment, and said there is a lot of drug dealing and prostitution in the area. She said she has seen male prostitutes hanging out on the corner and has seen people slipping drugs to one another.

Neighbors gather on Sacramento St. to learn more about the shooting

The sound of bullets and news that two people had been shot brought crowds onto Sacramento Street. Immediately after the shooting, many people were on their cell phones relaying the news to friends. They could see a stream of blood running down the sidewalk into the street and bloodied clothes on the sidewalk.

About a half hour after the shooting, cries of grief erupted from a nearby alley. Ferguson’s mother had apparently just received word that her son had died, and she and her sisters started to sob uncontrollably.

This is Berkeley’s fifth homicide of the year. There was also a shooting nearby on August 31, 2010, on Sacramento and Oregon streets.

* The second victim is not Gary Ferguson Jr.s’ stepson, who is also named Larry.

Photos by Frances Dinkelspiel

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  • CS

    Why didn’t BPD call Longfellow immediately? The principal shouldn’t have to notice news helicopters and call police in order to take action to protect the students from an off-campus incident. BPD ought to know there’s a school in the vicinity.

    And what’s the deal with Johnson’s Barbershop?

  • Johnson’s apparently is a hang out for people of the neighborhood and some residents say illegal activity has gone on there.

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  • JC

    Maybe it is time to BPD to step it up here. This is unacceptable that this happened at in front of school kids and right near a school zone at that. They better skin these fools alive when they find them!!! They think they are all that wielding guns in front of a barbershop. Cowards.

  • Unfortunate Coincident

    Violent crime in Berkeley is something that we as a community, and particuarly this geographic area of our City, face far too frequently. I wanted to wait to post this comment to see if there were folks that said (in their replies) that things have gotten better, but just not today (but those posts never came). So while when shootings happen, they command the top headline, it seems like folks have said today’s event is another red flag regarding what we as a community need to ready ourselves for.

    I’d find it a “humorous” coincidence that Councilmember Worthington (someone I’ll admit I do not support in his re-election bid, as I see him as ineffective) has introduced, as item # 19 on the agenda for tonight’s council meeting, a resolution “Recognizing the Outstanding Efforts of the Chief of Police Michael Meehan and Berkeley Police Department for Continuously Reducing Crime in Berkeley”.

    Clearly there is no humor in today’s events. While I commend our Police Chief and his staff for their hard work and commitment to the City, I suspect that they may understand that Worthington’s resolution may be more politically motivated than being of merit. In time, as programs the Chief introduces are implemented and as change takes place, then proculmation are appropriate. Dramatic change the community, including our residents in this particular neighborhood, can point to. In an election year and for Worthington, this is an unfortunate coincident.

    While some may say this post has nothing to do with the story at hand, I view otherwise (it has everything to do with it, as we need our electeds to be committed to addressing areas of the City that need our help vs. passing proculations to feed their political needs.

    Just an observation.

  • Without education, without jobs, those in our community with the most to lose and the least resources are on the front lines of a war in which people will get killed. The girlfriend of one of the men shot today works for the county of Alameda, helping people survive in these difficult times. Now her life is in ruins as well as his. Overwhelmingly these sorts of crimes have an economic component. Inevitably there will be ‘collateral damage.’ If you think education is expensive, the cost of ignorance is far, far higher. The state of NY pays over $200,000 a year to incarcerate juveniles. I’m sure California isn’t far behind. We spend far less than a tenth of that sum to educate our children. Where are our values?

  • Nancy

    Both the victims and assailants were black.

    Both the victims and assailants were white.
    Both the victims and assailants were Asian.
    Both the victims and assailants were Latino.
    The victims were black and assailants were white
    The victims were white and assailants were black.
    The victims were white and black and assailants were Asian and Latino.
    The victims were …..

    Not sure why the writer elected to insert race, in this way, into the report.

    How it was written up for

  • Cheryl Eccles

    I agree with Nancy–I found this comment “Both the victims and assailants were black” unnecessary. What did it add to the story?

  • Maybe one problem is that thug culture is valued above all else by too many youth who make terrible decisions without any apparent consideration of long term consequences. How to reach them, and who to reach them best? Not many postive role models in the music they listen to. How many of them have a mother and father at home?

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  • Nadiyah Taylor

    I wanted to echo Nancy’s comments as well – interesting editorial choice to specify race without indicating why that’s important. It also seems there should be protocol in place to inform local schools when there is any shooting or violence nearby so that children and teaching staff can be protected. Finally, while “thug culture” is a problem, violence in the community, media and society overall is a problem. Blaming it on “thug culture” without a more nuanced assessment of the myriad layers can be a slippery slope.

  • laura menard

    Try ADDICTION before you blame the poor economy or education.

    The two ladies uncomfortable with the facts about the black homicide rate in America, are probably just fine using race in educational success rates.


    I could walk anyone of you around this hood and point out the bullet holes in innocent folks homes left by this recent victim and his pals during one of their endless summers of love. These gangsters engage in gun battles regardless of the collateral damage they cause. During one summer feud between the Ferguson group and Harris group they had a shootout with semi automatic guns at 9am immediately at the corner of Derby/Cali adjacent Longfellow, summer school had just open for the day.
    Where the hell was your pity then?

    Those who chose the gangster life live by the criminal code, nor do they care that liberals feel their pain, they use your pity. Do you think they feel badly about the innocent black woman killed last week at 52nd when they sprayed their rivals with automatic gunfire. Her crime she was going out dancing with friends and was hit as she walked to her car.

    The collateral damage is us residents held hostage to violent criminals and their clueless do-gooder enablers who use our neighborhood promoting their separatist ideologies.

    60 rounds people, when did gangsters fire 60 rounds in your neighborhood during a planned attack?

  • Diane

    This isn’t a media issue and grander discussions about larger societal issues will not solve the immediate problem – which is simply that rival gangs have been making this area of town a dangerous place for some time now. It’s a problem of gang warfare and police enforcement.

  • Andrew

    While it may not have been necessary to mention the race of all parties, black on black crime is an important topic within the black community. And identifying race is an important part of identifying assailants because it is one of many ways to know who to look for.

  • laura menard


    Nuance? are you familiar with Johnson barbershop, that would be a black barbershop, check out from the public library Spike Lee film “Barbershop” for context.

  • About 20 years ago I was a volunteer in a second or third grade classroom at Arts Magnet School. At one point I had to pull a youngster out of the classroom in the middle of a test the teacher was administering because he was literally screaming and throwing things at the other children. I took him outside and talked to him and discovered the youngster couldn’t read the very simple test. He didn’t even know his ABCs. When I spoke with the teacher about this and insisted that the child didn’t belong in a classroom of 20 to 30 second graders, that he needed tutoring in a small group of other children with comparable skills, she informed me that there was nothing she could do. That she wasn’t allowed to make such recommendations. It was clear to me that this excellent teacher couldn’t teach this one child and ignore the rest of her class, and he couldn’t learn in a crowded classroom full of kids who were way beyond his skill levels. So I took this kid to the principal’s office and made the same demand. The principal said there wasn’t anything she could do, that the teacher had the responsibility to teach this child, despite his lack of foundational education. I told the principal that wasn’t good enough and that I was taking the matter to the school board. She begged me not to (we were friends and I had been a member of the selection group that help hire this principal), and stupidly, I didn’t. When I got home that evening I told my wife about this second grader and said that if someone didn’t do something to get this bright young child up to speed he’d end up dead or in prison. About 12 years later this boy was in the newspapers. He’d been shot to death in Oakland in a drug related hit.

  • Mona

    Is not necessay to mention the race for you folks, but the writer juts doing their job, making those coments won’t help the cummunity.

  • Regarding Fred’s post about the 2nd grader who didn’t know his ABC’s. Did anyone approach the child’s parent about the child not having this basic knowledge? Where was the child’s parent, guardian, relative, social network? Maybe watching TV or hanging out was more important. Very, very sad.

    There is such a wealth of wonderful programs available for youth in this city, from Pre-school, after-school, summer programs etc. The kids still need a caring, responsible parent figure to help guide them in the basics, and instill respect for education.

    Maybe requiring or offering parenting classes for at risk families or as a pre-requisite for other types of assistance should be stressed.

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  • laura menard


    Adding to your statement:
    “It’s a problem of gang warfare and police enforcement.’

    We need to include the prevention piece, enforcement of civil code violations under state and local laws. See my previous post about public nuisance abatement which is the responsibility of code enforcement dept.

    abatement= prevention
    police= intervention/enforcement

    The three legs of crime reduction are prevention/intervention/enforcement which requires governments to use both civil and criminal laws accordingly.

    This recent shooting and the prior shootings at this location were PREVENTABLE.

    The problem is political not police enforcement.

    Especially in Berkeley the manager and city council determine policing policies. Chief Meehan is walking a tight line of balancing the historic problems of political nonsense supporting dysfunction and implementing systems of accountability using geographic policing and crime analysis.

    Moore, Anderson, Bates and Kamlarz should be held accountable to this beleaguered community.

  • Patricia

    Why are bus loads of kids (witnessed the crime) going to Cragmont School from So. Berkeley? Why don’t kids walk to their local schools anymore? Creating a caring, community and getting parents out on the street walking their kids to school and involved in their local school. If those kids are coming from so far away how can we possibly expect the parents to trek up the hill and get involved?

  • Kim

    Laura, I’m not sure why you mentioned the movie Barbershop starring Icecube because as we all including you should know, is a fictional comedy and has nothing to do with this particular situation at all. As well, It does’nt even have anything to do with Spike Lee so I hope for your sake, that this reference was just a careless mistake. You go to the library and check this film out and report back with facts and a point cause I found yours difficult to find.

  • laura menard


    not a careless mistake by any means……

  • Kim

    I meant the Spike Lee relation to the movie Barbershop starring Ice Cube and your point because I dont recall Spike Lee having any relaship or connection to or with that film, and it certainly wasn’t “his”.

  • laura menard

    Got it, your right Kim, I made a mistake in connecting directors to films, likely a result of listening to Lee during an interview discuss a film he made in college about the culture of the black barbershop.

  • C. Rosebrough

    Yesterday’s shooting was just a few feet from the corner of Julia & Sacramento Streets. Today I wrote to Councilman Anderson about the SE corner of Julia & Sacramento Streets. This eyesore is an empty, boarded up building with a flimsy chain link fence, and the lot is usually full of trash and debris. There have been numerous violent incidents at this corner over the years. Fifteen years ago we tried to get Councilwoman Maudelle Shirek to do something about this blighted property. Only one thing was done: a tall, free-standing liquor sign was removed. Since then, nothing has been done. Occasionally shrines are erected for victims of past violence at this corner.

    We who live in this area should demand that our city council, police, and mayor clean up this SE corner of Julia/Sacramento. It is a shameful disgrace and an unfortunate signal to some that the neighborhood just doesn’t care.

  • clayton

    Damm! All of this is a shame. I bet there will be another murder following behind this one due to retaliation. I think its time for black youth to put down the guns and pull up their pants. Is this what are parents and grandparents ect… fought for. No wonder these white people don’t give a shit about us. Killing black people over drugs we sell to black people and fighting over streets we don’t own. Wow!!!! Wake the F@#$ up!

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  • laura menard

    Connecting the dots.


    The background story about the city and the Toler’s family neglect of the blighted property Old King Liquors is much deeper and illustrates in profound ways the politics instead of sound crime reduction methods I discussed earlier in this thread. This is an example of the defacto zoning of south Berkeley as an economically depressed ghetto when the city could be supplying this economically and ethnically diverse community with similar standard for public safety enjoyed by the rest of Berkeley.


    As you likely are all too familiar many black families concerned about the success of their children navigating the mean streets of south Berkeley move away. The above mentioned Toler family is a good example.

    I would love to see an audit of the city Economic development dept staff time spent promoting and hand-holding Sacramento St merchants association through a recent multi-year process which failed to abate the blighted property King Liquors. City staff encouraged merchants to organize a small claims suit for damages against the Tolers for maintaining a blighted commercial property for over 25 years. As I predicted and stated publicly many times this tactic would fail since the courts have written clearly in judgments on public nuisance abatement that the city of Berkeley is in the best position to address this issues through code enforcement procedures.

    Once again, years of community members time and energy was wasted, and yes Max Anderson was involved, in this typical exercise of managing the community outrage.

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  • Park Boy 2800

    Wat yall talkin bout that was a good dude R.i.p G-feezy We gone miss u big bra

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  • Why is there so much crime in CA ? Dont they have the most strict gun laws in the country ? Oh i am a native Arizonan and i carry a loaded revolver always and legally in most states with my permit . If i drive over into CA or of couse Mexico i must leave my guns at home ! Hey folks, do you see anything wrong with that picture ? If you dont see a problem with that , then ! Oh well i will try to be nice about it  !!!

  • Bamafamily

    R.I.P G-FEEZY…….fuck wat dem people talkin bout..race really….. stupid mutherfuck…Real G’s live forever……..