Southside residents contend with spate of shootings

Seal Lolis prepares his barbecues Friday morning for The Bootstrapper’s lunch crowd on Sacramento Street. Photo: Frances Dinkelspiel

It was a normal-seeming morning on Sacramento Street on Friday, 14 hours after a man had been murdered on nearby Oregon Street.

Mothers pushed children strapped in their strollers. A man bought two cans of frosty Colt 45 beer and a quarter pint of cognac at Bob’s Liquors. Two young men rapped on the metal gate leading to Perfect Plant Patient’s Group, a medical cannabis collective.

Seal Lolis, the owner of Bootstrapper, a southern style restaurant on Sacramento, lit up the charcoal in the two barbecues right outside his bright red gate. Fridays are barbecue days at the Bootstrapper, and Lolis was getting ready to cook the ribs, links and chicken his regular customers look forward to.

Lolis had been just yards away from the 7:34 pm shooting on Thursday. He was working in his restaurant and heard the shots, but stayed inside. He has been operating a business on Sacramento Street for three years, but cannot remember another time there have been so many gun battles.

The Thursday shooting came as two men left Bob’s Liquors and were confronted by a crowd of men on the corner, one of whom had a gun and started shooting. The two men fled. One was not injured, but the other was hit and fell down on Oregon Street. Police arrested a suspect about an hour later.

On Monday, March 26, shots were fired around 1 p.m. on the corner of Russell and Sacramento streets. On Dec. 23, a group of three young men pulled out weapons on Sacramento near Woolsey and fired at two other, who retaliated with their own guns (see map below for details on the four shootings this month in Berkeley).

Lolis believes the bad economy and Republican willingness to help out corporations, but not average people, is one reason there have been so many shootings recently.

“A lot of these guys, if they had jobs, they would go home,” he said. “They would be too tired to hang out.”

View Recent major crimes in Berkeley in a larger map. The placemarks are clickable for more information.

As Lolis prepared the barbecue, a 44-year-old man named Willie walked by and greeted him. Willie had grown up on California and Ashby but moved to San Rafael in 2011. He said his parents had come to Berkeley from the South and taught him that working hard was important to success – a message that seems to have been lost.

“You have to work until you get something,” said Willie, who asked that his last name not be used. “Now the kids they think fast money and then they say it’s the white man. I know times are hard but don’t let that discourage you.”

For Ali Ahmed, a UC Berkeley employee who occasionally works at Bob’s Liquors, the site of Thursday’s shooting, the recent escalation of violence is frightening.

“I’m scared,” he said. “I’m scared to stay in this store. We are scared in this area, especially Sacramento Street. This area is bad all the time. People are scared to go outside now.”

Berkeley police have not yet released the name of the murder victim, nor the name of the Berkeley man they arrested in connection with the shooting around 8:30 p.m. But many people in the area believe there must have been a drug connection.

“It’s got to be drug related,” said a man who asked not to be identified. He works at Rosewood Manor on Oregon Street, which he described as an apartment complex that was the center of drug activity and street violence for years, but is now a safe place. “Most of these kids are trigger happy until after the fact. They get arrested and their mamas can’t bail them out. They think that shit [shooting] is cool in front of their peers.”

A former nurse who lives at Oregon Park, a senior complex adjacent to where the young man was killed, said the people involved with the crime had run through the complex after the shooting. Her grandson was returning home from San Francisco and had to walk right by the victim’s body. She did not want to give her name because if the local drug dealers knew she was talking, she could be in danger.

“My attitude is if someone will take a life, they will kill you without even thinking about it.”

The woman has lived in the neighborhood for five years and frequently takes walks around. She mostly feels safe, except when she is on Sacramento Street, she said.

“If I hit the lotto tonight, you wouldn’t see me again.”

Amelia Glynn only moved into the area a month ago and walks her dog Alice frequently.

“I like living in a mixed neighborhood, but shootings are not good,” said Glynn. “I don’t feel like a target but if I am in the wrong place at the wrong time, well you don’t have control of that.”

The Berkeley Police Department is urging anyone who may know anything about this homicide to call the BPD Homicide Detail at (510) 981-5741 or the 24 hour BPD non emergency number of (510) 981-5900. If a community member wishes to remain anonymous, he/she is encouraged to call the Bay Area Crimes Stoppers (BACS) at (800)-222-TIPS (8477). Any information may be critical to solving this crime. Sometimes the smallest or seemingly insignificant detail can be the key to an arrest and prosecution of the suspect or suspects in any crime.

Sacramento Street shooting victim dies, arrest made [03.30.12]
Shooting on Sacramento and Oregon, victim wounded [03.29.12]
No known injuries in Monday shooting on Russell [03.18.12]
Dec. 23 shooting involved five men with guns [03.07.12]

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  • Just Sayin

    Willie hit the nail on the head.

  • Andrew

    If you look at the map in the article it’s obvious that there is a region in Berkeley that needs a heavy police presence and a long-term rehabilitation effort.

    While I admire Lolis’s desire and ability to work hard and own his own business he is wrong in his assessment about what drives the people involved in these crimes. They are not upset with the Republican establishment and thus shooting off their firearms like fireworks, they are simply involved in dangerous and illegal behavior. They are thugs no matter which political party is in power. As has been said before on Berkeleyside, many honest people face hard times without firing a single weapon.

    I agree that Willie is very astute in his observation. Most of us work hard and work our way through factors that work against us. For those willing to live an honest life there is an honest way forward no matter who you are.

  • Bruce Love

    They are not upset with the Republican establishment and thus [….]

    That isn’t what he said.   He blamed, in part, a lousy economy and high unemployment.   For those things he blamed republican policy.

    You condescension towards him and the community generally are uncalled for.

  • sberkeleygal

     I live with my husband and young children a few blocks from where the shooting happened. We’ve lived in south Berkeley for eight years, and love the diversity as well as proximity to the park, cafes, and shops. Our neighborhood friends range from other young families to retired folks to families who have lived in the same home for generations. We walk and bike frequently, but admittedly not on Sac.

    South Berkeley is not all bad, and overall it is not a “scary” area. It’s mostly just a place where people go about their daily lives, much like any other in Berkeley. The recent uptick in violence angers me, as does the inability of our city to deal with it and the sense that south Berkeley is a lost cause. The “bad rap” given to a our neighborhood only makes it worse. We need action, not fear, and not “what else would you expect from this ‘hood?”

  • The Sharkey

    …as if Democratic politicians weren’t equally willing to sell out their constituents to the highest bidder.

    Neither major party in America seems particularly interested in changing the status quo.

  • Kamarie

    I actively avoid  walking on Sacramento Street south of Derby because of the people hanging out there and the things they shout when I walk by, and because of the crime reports in the area. I have never been to Bootstrapper restaurant because of it, although it looks like something I’d enjoy.  I’m just not going to take the chance of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. 

    Thumbs up to your comment ”
    We need action, not fear, and not ‘what else would you expect from this ‘hood?'”  ALL neighborhoods and residents in Berkeley deserve safety.  

  • Anonymous

     They are unemployed because they have no skills to make them employable.  The same kids that are failing algebra at BHS today will be replacing these guys on the corner as they die or get locked up.  Republican or Democratic policies have nothing to do with it.

  • Bruce Love

    Well now, of course … opinions may vary on how exactly the politics of the national parties does or does not relate to this.   That is beside the point.

    “Andrew” grossly distorted Loli’s apparent position.   I pointed out the main area of that distortion.

  • Can any of the neighborhood old-timers explain why Bob’s Liquors hasn’t been shut down yet? As it seems to be a magnet for illicit activity. I’ve lived a few blocks away for three years now, so I don’t know the backstory.

  • Heather_W_62

    Anonymous did not appear to be condescending to me, Thomas. There comes a time when you have to lay down the cloak of white heroicism (guilt) and get with the program that is called reality. Oh, and my calling you the White Guilt Hero has nothing to do with the race of the people  in question, it happens to coincide with a knee-jerk reaction that many from the ‘old guard’ retreat behind in an attempt to protect their out-dated belief systems. South Berkeley is the the least safe neighborhood in Berkeley. Is it unfair to call it for what it is? 

  • Heather_W_62

    Good for you! I’m sur Loli would be glad that a middle-aged White guy is coming to his rescue. He NEEDS you… right…

  • Bruce Love

    Your comments seem pretty overly fascinated with certain narrow conceptions of race.

  • Heather_W_62

    No more than you’re hapless, bleeding heart, Thomas. 

  • Heather_W_62

    {secret: black people don’t need you to tell them what the problem is or how to fix it… they are well aware} 

    You aren’t helping. 

  • Hatemanjr

    Why should it? It’s  not the owner who causing the problems. People seem to forget that area of Berkeley has always been bad- as far back as  the 70’s. But besides that, is doesn’t take much to see  that ever since the Cannabis Club has open the area has gotten steadly worse.

  • Ry

    Shut down bobs, shut down cannabis club. Problem solved

  • Ry

    Oh, can’t forget to tear down the affordable housing projects nearby. Clean up ashby ave. come on Berkeley, get serious about this and send thes people packing!

  • Bruce Love

    Heather, you are the person who decided to make this thread all about Black and White and about your theories of who should be permitted to say what.   See, Lolis said something about unemployment giving young people too much time to “hang out” and get in trouble.   And then Andrew completely twisted those words.   And I pointed that out.  And then you got on your race crusade, slinging insults and non-sequitors around like they were going out of style.

    It’s ironic that you accuse me of having a “knee-jerk” reaction.    But, lemme guess, it’s justified in your case because the big scary “old guard” has you so on edge?

  • John Holland

    Totally agreed. 75% of the public supports the public option and Obama didn’t even offer that during healthcare negotiations.

    19 polls show that a majority of Americans believe in increasing taxes on millionaires to lower the deficit. American politicians still won’t do it.

    A majority of Americans support unions, and yet politicians everywhere are trying to eliminate collective bargaining. (admittedly in this case, it’s mostly Republicans doing this)

    74% of Americans believe in eliminating big oil subsidies. Yet, politicians continue the subsidies.

    A majority of Americans support gay marriage and yet politicians are fighting it.

    69% of Americans want to end the war in Afghanistan And yet, Obama pushes on.

    I totally agree that politicians have sold us out, and America would be a much better place if representation actually worked.

  • Sue Tomasello

    I didn’t see Andrew’s comments particularly condescending.  He might have said he didn’t agree rather than Lolis being “wrong” in his assessment. Did I miss something?  Was it the description of thugs that you found condescending? 

  • Bruce Love

    While I admire Lolis’s desire and ability to work hard and own his own business he is wrong in his assessment about what drives the people
    involved in these crimes. They are not upset with the Republican
    establishment and thus shooting [….]

    The part that begins “[t]hey are not upset with the Republican establishment [….]” is a an absurd distortion of the quote in the article.   The overall flow of the paragraph is feint praise (“[w]hile I admire….”) followed by an extremely unflattering presumption (“they are not…”) and then disapproval of the straw-man so constructed.  And then, yes, the paragraph continues with moralizing about “thugs” and “honest people”, I guess for the benefit of those of us who weren’t keeping score?

  • Linda Pruitt

    The Bow’ry, the Bow’ry!
    They say such things,
    And they do strange things
    On the Bow’ry! The Bow’ry!
    I’ll never go there anymore!

  • Charles_Siegel

    ” Neither major party in America seems particularly interested in changing the status quo.”

    “74% of Americans believe in eliminating big oil subsidies. Yet, politicians continue the subsidies.”

    (CBS News) — President Obama on Thursday urged Congress to drop
    billions of dollars in tax breaks that amount to subsidies for the
    largest oil firms operating in the United States, which he noted were
    showing record profits as millions of Americans watch rising gas prices
    strain their household budgets.

    “I think it is time they got by
    without more help from taxpayers,” Mr. Obama said in remarks in the
    White House Rose Garden, “the oil industry is doing just fine.”

    Mr. Obama’s push came minutes before the Senate voted down a bill that would have repealed the subsidies.

    With strong opposition from Republicans, New Jersey Democratic Sen.
    Robert Menendez was only able to get 50 additional senators to agree to
    back his legislation. 60 votes were needed for approval. Maine Sen.
    Olympia Snowe was the only Republican to back the bill, while four
    Democrats voted against the measure.

  • Heather_W_62


  • The Sharkey

    When’s the last time the Democrats actually went beyond simple political theater and forced the Republicans to filibuster, or pushed something like this through when they had majority control? Funny how when the Democrats had control they hemmed and hawed and kept trying to compromise and didn’t do much, and suddenly now that they don’t have a majority any more they’re talking big and throwing out bills they refused to consider when they had majority control and could have actually pushed them through.

  • John Holland

    The Sharkey is exactly right.. Obama pretends and then caves. He can say he tried, but somehow, he always caves in the end.

  • Linda Pruitt

    There are some fine safe blocks in the area, a certain problem spots, like Bonar and the liquor store.

  • Charles_Siegel

     It wasn’t so easy to get laws through when they had majority control.  Obama’s two priorities were health care reform and ghg emissions.  The process of getting health care reform passed was so agonizing and took so long, that they lost their 60 vote majority (because Teddy Kennedy died) before they could pass cap-and-trade through the senate.

    So in answer to Sharkey’s question, health care reform was the last time they had the majority needed to pass a controversial law, and that was the last time they did it.

    Obama was looking for bipartisan cooperation when he was first elected, but I think he has realized that the Republicans are simply obstructionists and will be more combative in the future.  The two issues he seems to be willing to fight on are 1) higher taxes for the very rich and 2) this issue of ending subsidies to big oil.

    Incidentally, says its next crusade will be to end subsidies to dirty energy, and if you haven’t signed the petition yet, please do so at  Signing will get you on their mailing list, so you can keep working on this issue.

    Forcing the Republicans to filibuster is an important point.  They should change the Senate rules so a minority needs to actively filibuster to stop a law, rather than just getting 41 votes to block a procedural decision to stop filibuster.  Filibuster used to be so difficult that it was only used on the most important issues, but now it is used constantly.  I am not enough of an expert of Senate procedure to know how hard it is to change that rule.

  • Berkeley Resident

    Yes, please fix the apartments on Bonar Street.  That will help the area for sure.  The street is otherwise very nice and the neighborhood is so centrally located.  Perfect urban living minus the ongoing crimes….

  • Berkeley Resident

    What does this mean?

  • Lauram

    I am an old timer, and a community member responsible for Berkeley adopting alcohol regulatory ordinances.Bob’s mangaement and staff has always been directly involved with working on solutions.The individuals involved on the street there would have moved over to the Barbecue spot if the corner store was closed.

    If you track the past shootingson Sacramento you would see the pattern. The liquor store tries to keep loitering to a minimum.