Update, 6:44 p.m.: The Berkeley Police Department has confirmed the identity of shooting victim Pamela Mullins, 50, of Berkeley. Mullins was killed in the 2700 block of Sacramento Street. According to a written statement released at 6:28 p.m.: “BPD detectives are continuing to work hard to gather information and determine a motive for this incident.”
Update, 5 p.m.: The Oakland Tribune is reporting that the shooting victim was 50-year-old Pam Mullins and that she died about 100 feet from her home. Cathy White of Oakland, who told the Tribune she was Mullins’ sister, said Mullins often rode her bike to and from her job as a caregiver, that she lived alone and had recently moved into the apartment.
Original story: The only signs Wednesday morning that a woman was gunned down Tuesday night as she rode her bicycle near Longfellow Middle School was a piece of yellow caution tape flapping in the wind, and three television news vans.
Otherwise it seemed like an average, if rainy, morning. Trucks delivered food to the school cafeteria, parents dropped off students, and stragglers rushed through the rain to make their early classes.
A woman who lives near the corner of Derby and Sacramento streets said she had heard what sounded like a shot Tuesday night but did not know a murder had occurred until she bundled her young son off to school in the morning.
“We heard the gunshot,” said the woman, who only wanted to be identified by her first name, Amanda. “It was really close. It was just one. We didn’t hear any sirens.”
Berkeley police received a 911 call at 11:36 p.m. on Dec. 4 reporting that a female bicyclist was on the ground. The caller speculated she might have been involved in a traffic accident.
Police arrived to discover a woman dead from a gunshot wound, according to Officer Jennifer Coats, police spokeswoman. The victim’s identity has not yet been released, although she is believed to have been in her late 40s or early 50s, said Coats. The woman was bleeding from her head, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.
The initial press release reported that the woman had been shot in the 1500 block of Derby Street, but Amanda and others said her body was discovered on the sidewalk on the east side of the 2700 block of Sacramento Street, between Derby and Ward, by a chain link fence surrounding a Longfellow play yard. On Wednesday morning, the only sign of the shooting was the short piece of yellow police tape.
The principal at Longfellow was not planning to make a special announcement about the slaying since it happened late at night and most of the students probably were not aware of it, according to Mark Coplan, a spokesman for the Berkeley Unified School District. If students remarked on the television news crews, the principal would probably just say they were reporting a story, said Coplan. The intent is not to upset students.
The counseling department at Longfellow is helping students who already know abut the shooting and are upset, according to a comment left on Berkeleyside by a teacher at the school.
“Many of our students live in this neighborhood and many heard/saw much of what happened last night,” the teacher said in her comment. “They did not choose to live where they do. Longfellow is an incredibly safe, supportive environment and our counseling department has already addressed this event.”
Amanda, who has two children and is expecting twins, said, despite the shooting, she feels safe in the neighborhood. There is a strong neighborhood association, which means many local residents watch out for one another.
“It doesn’t feel targeted at the neighborhood,” she said. “I don’t feel scared at all to walk with my children here.”
Sacramento Street has been the center of much of Berkeley’s violence in recent years. On March 29, 24-year-old Devin Lee Whitmore was shot on the 2800 block of Sacramento, right outside Bob’s Liquors. Nineteen-year-old Berkeley resident Calvester Houston Stewart has been charged with his murder. On Dec. 23, 2011, five men got into a gunfight on Sacramento Street near Woolsey. On March 26, police investigated a shooting at Sacramento near Russell.
Neighbors and members of the Sacramento Street Improvement Association have attributed some of the violence to the presence of an unlicensed cannabis collective at 2480-B Sacramento Street. After a long fight over zoning and other regulations, Perfect Plants Patients Group shut its doors in mid-November, which some residents said they hoped would bring more peace to the neighborhood.
The killing is the fourth homicide in Berkeley this year. In addition to Whitmore, Kenneth Warren was shot dead Jan. 26 near his workplace on the corner of Shattuck and Emerson. No one has been arrested in that case. On Feb. 18, Peter Cukor was bludgeoned to death outside his home on Park Gate in the Berkeley hills. A suspect, Daniel DeWitt, was charged with Cukor’s murder, but the trial was postponed when a judge ruled that DeWitt was mentally incompetent and sent him to Napa State Hospital.
In 2011, there was only one homicide in Berkeley.
The Berkeley Police Department asks anyone with information about this incident to call its Homicide Unit at 510-981-5741 or its non-emergency number at 510-981-5900. Callers may remain anonymous. Anyone with anonymous information may also call Bay Area Crime Stoppers at 800-222-TIPS (8477).
Female bicyclist shot and killed on Derby Street [12.06.12]
Sacramento Street shooting victim dies, arrest made [03.30.12]
Dec. 23 shooting involved five men with guns [03.07.12]