Blood Drops On The Sidewalk

September 8, 2017

It’s not unusual to find blood drops on the sidewalk in the forgotten lands of East Oakland, the stretch that runs to the southeast between the 73rd Avenue/Hegenberger Avenue junction and 105th Avenue going out towards the San Leandro border. This is tough territory, even for those who understand its dangers and know their way around it, and while the spilling of blood on these streets is by no means an everyday occurrence, it happens often enough.

The blood drops I came across a couple of weekends ago along International Boulevard caught my attention, however, because they were different from the usual, both in volume and in length. They were out in a two-block trail in large blotches from 86th to 88th, each dropping close to the last one, as if someone had taken a deep and serious wound and then attempted to walk or stagger away, their life draining away from them as they went.

Who was it who got so seriously wounded, and why, and what happened to them? Sometimes you can read a story in these small clues left behind. This time, however, it was a mystery with no way to decipher, and no-one around in those late morning hours who might have witnessed or heard of the event to provide an answer.

A little over a block away from where the blood drops ended—or began, I really couldn’t tell which—was what used to be the tent city encampment on the sidewalk on the west side of International between 85th and 84th. Camp 85, as I called it, with its pungent smells and colorful tents and canopies and even more colorful cast of residents, had long been a source of neighborhood news for me, as there was never a time, night or day, when folks weren’t up and about over there, either watching or instigating or participating in the activities of the street. But Camp 85 is gone now, the street it once occupied now empty of a single laundromat and workers on the AC Transit Bus Rapid Transit construction project, the camp torn down by Oakland police and city workers the week before the blood drops appeared, almost all of its inhabitants scattered to who knows where.

Oakland police had “cleaned out” Camp 85 several times before, but this time they were serious. Word is they threatened camp residents with $300 to $350 fines or jail time if they returned, and to emphasize that promise, police watched the block from vehicles parked at each corner until late in the evening of eviction day. The next morning and for the rest of that day, police conducted two-officer walking patrols up and down the sidewalk the encampment had occupied, to scare off anyone who might be thinking of coming back.

Oakland police foot-patrolling the grounds of the 85 Camp the day after the eviction

The walking patrols were the most interesting part of the encampment eviction. Residents of what we call “Deep East Oakland” have requested police walking patrols for years in order to combat the violence and crime epidemic in the area, but police and city officials have always replied they simply did not have the time and personnel to to do so.

Usually in this part of Oakland, police describe “patrolling” as riding up and down the various streets, giving out tickets for various traffic violations, or, in answering 911 calls, rushing to the scenes of reported crimes. But Oakland police actually have been keeping a steady stationary presence along International south of 73rd for the past few months, not just patrolling or 911 answering. Construction companies contracted by AC Transit bus system have been conducting massive electrical upgrading, traffic and pedestrian light enhancement, and sidewalk and curb reconstruction in that area in preparation for its upcoming Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) line. And for some reason, Oakland police officers have been ordered to sit in their cars in the area of immediate construction, sometimes for hours on end, to watch over the workers and the work. Why, I don’t know. Often you’ll see the officers reading, or checking their computers, presumably waiting for emergency calls to come in to take them away or, once in a while, getting out of their cars and chatting with the workers or work supervisors. One thing you don’t see them doing—I haven’t, at least—is using the time to conduct those walking patrols in the blocks along International where the construction is going on, talking with residents or going into the various businesses along the way and interacting with the employees and owners. That would seem to be a better utilization of what seems like so much lost time sitting around in their cars.

Oakland police AC Transit BRT construction monitoring

But I suppose, as they tell us, the police just don’t have the time—or the inclination or incentive, more likely—to do things like that in this neighborhood.

In any event, the day after I came across the trail of blood drops on International, a little bit of the mystery got solved.

On that day, the East Bay Times published a story that read: “Police were investigating a shooting in East Oakland early Saturday morning. The shooting occurred about 3 a.m. on 88th Avenue near the International Boulevard intersection. According to Oakland police, one man was shot three times by an unknown assailant.

“The victim was taken to a local hospital,” the Times article went on to say, “where he was said to have survived.” (“Man Shot Three Times In East Oakland, SurvivesEast Bay Times August 26, 2017)

The article concluded with the standard “Check back for updates.” I did. There weren’t any. But I didn’t expect them to be.

If you want to remain anonymous and off the internet grid, be a "man" resembling all of the other neighborhood men and get yourself seriously wounded—but not killed—in the badlands of East Oakland. If the victim had died, we’d have learned their name and age, their ranking in the number of Oakland homicides this year, and sometimes the added tagline “it is not known what they were doing in that neighborhood at the time they were shot.” To get wounded in East Oakland and have your name in the media you have to be a special case, a child, or a pregnant woman, or an innocent simply driving by in your car when gunshots broke out. Then not only will your name be reported, but you might get some information about your occupation, your background, and even some comments from your family and friends.

But be “non-special” person getting shot or cut on the streets of Deep East Oakland and you’re no-one, at least to the public at large, and all that will be left of the story of the incident are blood drops on the sidewalk, which will only remain until the rains of October and November come to wash all trace of them away.


Contact Jesse Allen-Taylor at
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