OAKLAND, Calif. (KRON) — In the tense aftermath of an Oakland school shooting, questions have arisen over whether victims were discouraged from cooperating with investigators.
Six people, including two students, a counselor, a security guard, a carpenter, and a school staff member, were shot by two gunmen who stormed into Rudsdale Newcomer High School and fired at least 30 rounds Wednesday.
Police Chief LeRonne Armstrong said the shooting was motivated by gang retaliation. The gunmen had a specific person they were looking for inside the school, and none of the six victims shot were the gang members’ intended targets, he said.
The shooters and a getaway driver have so far evaded arrest and no suspects have been identified.
During Thursday’s news conference, Armstrong was asked if his investigators found text messages in some of the victims’ cellphones instructing victims to not cooperate with police.
Armstrong told reporters, “Our investigation will be thorough, it will be complete and we will exhaust all options to figure out what happened on this campus. But at this time, I will not speak to any evidence that we’ve recovered.”
Oakland Unified School District spokesman John Sasaki told KRON4 on Friday that district officials want to know if the text messages exist.
“We’ve been told by (Rudsdale) staff that these text messages did not happen. They did not obstruct any investigations. They did not text anybody not to talk to the police. At the same time, we are talking to Oakland police to determine what they know, in an effort to totally understand the situation,” Sasaki told KRON4.
“Oakland police are critical partners with us in keeping our schools safe,” Sasaki said.
Armstrong told KRON4, “This is not a time to think about not snitching. People who commit these crimes have to be held accountable.”
The mass shooting unfolded at 12:45 p.m. Wednesday inside Rudsdale, one of four schools clustered on King Estates Campus. The first Oakland police officers and Alameda County Sheriff’s deputies who arrived on scene immediately breached classroom doors to reach the victims and rush them to hospitals.
“They did not wait, they immediately went in to save any lives they could. Our officers did not wait to receive keys to classrooms. They used breaching tools to enter every classroom,” Armstrong said.
The most gravely injured victim remains in critical condition, according to a Highland Hospital spokesperson.
One of the six victims was a school district carpenter, Jason Arbuckle, who sent KRON4 photographs from the hospital of his head injuries. His clothes were soaked in blood. Arbuckle was working on installing a trophy display case on a wall inside Rudsdale when the shooting began. Arbuckle said it’s a miracle he survived and felt very grateful to return home on Thursday evening.
A second victim was a campus security guard who helped protect students even after he was shot in the leg. The guard, identified by Bay Area Technology School as Mr. Brown, showed true bravery and helped give CPR to another victim, school officials said.
Two students, who are both older than 17, were also shot. “We thank God that many more students were not injured,” Armstrong said.
Gun violence has surged in Oakland over the past two weeks, including nine homicides. Just one day before Wednesday’s mass school shooting, Armstrong said his department was going “all hands on deck” to stop more deadly gang retaliation shootings from happening.
“Our schools are microcosms of our community. Sometimes what happens on the streets makes it way into our schools. Unfortunately that’s what happen on Wednesday,” Sasaki told KRON4.
Many of Rudsdale Newcomer High School’s students are immigrants who fled their home countries to escape violence. “They are all between 16-21 years old. Due to their migration experiences, our students have faced a lot of trauma but are also trying to be adolescents in high school,” the school district’s website states.
Police said a student was stabbed at Rudsdale last month and a gun was recovered.
The Oakland Police Chief is urging anyone with information to reach out and help detectives identify and find the Rudsdale Newcomer High School shooters. Armstrong said his investigators will likely release surveillance video to the public soon.
If you have information about this case, call the Oakland Police Department Homicide Section at (510) 238-3821 or the TIP LINE at (510) 238-7950.
Rudsdale will remain closed until at least Tuesday, Sasaki said.