OAKLAND, Calif. (KRON) — The Oakland police officers union said a toddler’s violent death and a mass shooting over the weekend were tragic consequences of defunding the police department.
“Oakland’s sad reality has become back-to-back violent tragedies. A mass shooting and murder Friday. An innocent toddler murdered on Saturday. Followed by another murder that evening,” the Oakland Police Officers’ Association wrote.
The toddler, who was just shy of his 2nd birthday, was identified by family members as Jasper Wu.
Investigators said there was a shootout between vehicles on I-880 in Oakland at 2:10 p.m. Saturday. The California Highway Patrol does not believe the gunmen were aiming for Jasper’s mother’s car, but the family was caught in the crossfire.
Jasper was shot and died soon after in a children’s hospital. The killers are still at-large and no arrests have been made.
Jasper’s senseless death sent shockwaves through the Bay Area.
Mayor Libby Schaaf tweeted Monday, “To lose a 23-month-old to gun violence is as heart-wrenching and as sickening as it gets. As a mother and as a mayor, I’m devastated by the totality of human loss and trauma caused by gun violence in our society.”
Jasper was his mother’s only child, and he never had the chance to meet his father, who lives in China, according to friends of the victim’s family. Jasper had recently celebrated Halloween by dressing up as Superman.
The toddler’s death was the 118th homicide in Oakland this year. Just hours after the I-880 shooting, another homicide in Oakland brought the death toll up to 119.
“This reality was created by the ‘Defund The Police” majority on the City Council, who have abandoned public safety in Oakland,” said POA President Barry Donelan.
Two-thirds of Oakland residents reported feeling “less safe” in their city compared to two years ago, according to a poll conducted by the city’s chamber of commerce. Fifty-one percent said they believe the city needs more police officers.
“Oakland’s strained police officers continue to work hard … and striving to stem the violence despite being vilified and provided no support,” the union wrote.
The Oakland Police Department currently has 681 sworn staff members — it’s lowest staffing since 2014.
The POA said it’s staffing crisis was magnified by the City Council voting to freeze 55 police officer positions, 100 police officer position for 2022, disbanding the Traffic Division, eliminating community foot patrol officers, and scaling back crime reduction teams.