Man arrested in shooting of Oakland mother

A 19-year-old man has been arrested and charged with the fatal shooting Monday afternoon of a mother in West Oakland, Alameda County prosecutors said Thursday.

Anthony Sims has been charged with murder and various firearm counts for the killing of Chyemil Pierce, 30. Police said Pierce was shot around 4:45 p.m. Monday in front of her home in the 2900 block of Chestnut Street after a nearby argument turned violent.

Jail records show Sims¬†was scheduled for arraignment in Alameda County Superior Court Thursday¬†afternoon. Police said two other people were injured in Monday’s shooting but were both in stable condition.

Oakland City Councilwoman Lynette Gibson McElhaney said Pierce was with her children ages 7 and 9 when the shooting occurred. Gibson McElhaney said she has been told the shooting occurred after a group of young women began fighting on the street and young men joined the fray and opened fire.

The police response prior to the shooting has come under criticism from residents of the West Oakland neighborhood who said they called earlier Monday and that violence has been a frequent occurrence at that location in the recent past, but police did not respond to those initial calls.

The residents urged police to revamp the way they prioritize calls for service at locations with a history of violence and to tell callers if no help will be coming. Some of them also want more undercover investigations in their neighborhood and are calling for the involvement of federal agencies like the FBI and Drug Enforcement Administration.

One resident called the Oakland police non-emergency line twice Monday morning to report suspicious activity near the scene of the shooting. Another man called police at 4:32 p.m., warning dispatchers of the loud argument spiraling out of control roughly 13 minutes before the first shots were fired.

The resident, who lives nearby and did not want his name published because he has concerns for his safety, said:

“They asked me if there were weapons, and I answered honestly that I did not know — but I had reported gunfire there two days earlier. … Retribution happens and I have no faith in the city government or the Police Department to have my back if I’m put in someone’s crosshairs.”

The resident added:

“That’s what we’re dealing with in Oakland.”

Joseph Russack is one of the few neighbors who agreed to go on record. In the wake of Pierce’s death, Russack is calling on Oakland police to revamp the way they prioritize emergency calls with an emphasis on reducing response times at locations with a history of violence.

Oakland police spokesman Officer Frank Bonifacio said the first call about the shooting came in at 4:45 p.m. and the first unit was on scene by 4:49 p.m.

Bonifacio said the department does have a way of flagging addresses with a history of threats to officer safety. But the 4:32 p.m. call does not seem to have been flagged and earlier calls would have been logged separately from the shooting.

Bonifacio said:

“People have to understand that we prioritize the calls, so a call of someone making noise and fighting verbally may not be as much a priority as someone escalating to physical fighting or weapons.”

That leaves some neighbors concerned that the only way to get a timely police response is by lying to dispatchers.

The unnamed resident said:

“If you really want OPD to show up, you tell them you saw a weapon. … That’s really terrible, because it increases the odds of police shooting an unarmed person. It could lead to another tragedy if the system isn’t fixed.”

The residents and Bonifacio all seemed to agree that Oakland police officers have a difficult job to do with limited resources, but the resident said he wants dispatchers to inform callers when they won’t be able to dispatch officers to the scene of a low-priority call for service, so at least they know there’s no help coming.

Russack is also calling for Oakland police and federal agencies like the FBI to engage in sustained, targeted policing by conducting undercover investigations to address the root of the neighborhood’s violence.