SANTA ROSA, Calif. (KRON) — Oakland’s East Bay Panthers youth football team is looking for somewhere new to practice after the team experienced two shootings in less than a week at Verdese Carter Park. On Saturday, they moved their game from Oakland to Santa Rosa to ensure everyone would be safe.
Parents of these kids say there are a lot of bad things happening in Oakland. But, a football team like this keeps their kids from getting involved in trouble. However, after two shootings in such a short time, many kids and families want to quit because they’re afraid to participate.
“Just to see the children running for their lives and just scrambling not knowing where to go and on the ground and running behind cars. It was very scary,” said one parent.
Practices have been cut short twice by shootings.
The East Bay Panthers football and cheer team used to practice at Verdese Carter Park near 98th and Bancroft Avenue in Oakland. But they don’t feel safe there anymore.
The first shooting happened on Thursday, Aug. 24. Parent Tamu Lopez says it sounded like dozens of shots rang out. Then it happened again on Tuesday, Aug. 29.
“One of our kids had a bullet that was right next to him that landed,” Lopez said. “A lot of our kids and families are traumatized by what happened.”
Head coach Luke Renfroe says multiple children have quit the team in the days since the shootings, and many more are still feeling the effects.
“Some of them have nightmares, and PTSD is real,” Renfroe said. “Oakland has turned into a mini-war zone recently. I wish there was something more that could be done, but we’re just trying to keep our kids safe.”
The team bussed the kids more than 60 miles away to Santa Rosa on Saturday. It was supposed to be a home game, but they decided to travel to their opponent instead. Board member and parent Candisha Scott says they don’t feel safe holding the games anywhere in Oakland.
“I’m hoping that we bring awareness that people need to understand that our youth are in danger, and it’s very impactful when our youth don’t feel safe,” Scott said.
Oakland police say they are actively investigating both of the shootings.
Lopez says they are trying to keep the team together while they look for a new, safer location to practice and play games. She says the kids need this type of community.
“Because they’re from Oakland doesn’t mean they have to do the negative things from Oakland,” Lopez said. “So this our way of giving back and letting them know they are going to be great student-athletes, and we expect for them to be upstanding people.”
The East Bay Panthers are a non-profit organization. Organizers say they are trying to raise money to put towards paying for safer practice spaces.