Oakland police chief decries muralist’s killing

Oakland Police Chief Sean Whent said the fatal shooting of an artist who was working on a community mural project in West Oakland this morning is “really tragic” and “totally unacceptable.”

Whent said the artist was “someone who was trying to make a positive difference in this city and lost his life.” Oakland police spokeswoman Johnna Watson said the artist, who she only identified as a young adult male, was one of several artists who was working on a mural planned for West Street under the Interstate Highway 580 overpass between 35th and 36th streets.

Watson said that shortly after 10:30 a.m. police who responded to reports of gunshots in the 3500 block of West Street found the man suffering from gunshot wounds. He was taken to a local hospital, where he was pronounced dead, she said.

A single male suspect walked up to the area where the artists were working, shot the victim and walked away, Watson said.

Investigators are looking at what lead up to the shooting, such as whether there was an argument, she said.

Police are interviewing witnesses, including artists who were with the victim, and will review footage from surveillance cameras in the area, Watson said.

“This is a busy area with a mix of commercial and residential buildings so we hope someone saw something,” she said.

Authorities said the artists were working on the Oakland Super Heroes Mural Project, which is being organized by ArtEsteem, the art and literacy arm of Attitudinal Healing Connection, a West Oakland Group that seeks to stop violence by inspiring people with art and education.

Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf said:

“Attitudinal Healing Connection is one of the most heartfelt organizations in the city and provides hope and opportunity for young people and I know their people well.¬†…¬†Every loss of life is tragic and I had a very tragic heart when I learned about this.”

The organizers of the Oakland Super Heroes Mural Project said it showcases artwork designed by students from various schools in the city.

The shooting occurred at the site of the third mural of six in the project. Work on the third mural began on Sept. 19.

Organizers said students from West Oakland Middle School planned to help paint the mural along with professional muralists at an event scheduled for Wednesday.

ArtEsteem is raising funds to complete the remaining murals through an Indiegogo campaign at www.indiegogo.com/projects/oakland-superheroes-mural-project.