I wrote a few weeks back about the possible appearance of a black Bernhard Goetz as a response to increasing lawlessness and violent crime in Harlem and other African American communities in NYC. Little did I know one such individual has already emerged in Oakland, CA.
Patrick McCullough shot young thug Melvin McHenry in self-defense back in 2005. The shooting occurred in McCullough’s front yard after he saw McHenry go for a weapon. Unlike the Goetz case, the District Attorney declined to press charges against McCullough. Like Goetz, McCullough has been derided as a vigilante. McCullough is also running a political campaign for city council. Unlike Goetz’s repeated runs for NYC mayor, McCullough had a shot of actually winning.
The San Francisco Chronicle reports:
In North Oakland, Uhuru House, an Afrocentric social service group cult [emphasis mine], has set its sights on Patrick McCullough, a neighborhood crime-prevention activist who is running against incumbent Councilwoman Jane Brunner.
The group paints McCullough, who is African American, as an anti-black vigilante for shooting a 15-year-old boy who in 2005 pointed a gun at him, an act that Oakland police described as self-defense, and for forcing drug dealers and gang members off his block.
Brunner said her campaign is not affiliated in any way with Uhuru House and a spokeswoman for the group said it has not endorsed her. McCullough said he is afraid the group’s flyers might cost him support among younger voters and wants Brunner to denounce the Uhuru House attacks.
On his campaign website, McCullough writes:
A recurring theme in citizen involvement with neighborhood crime is the fear of retaliation by wrongdoers. In high-crime neighborhoods such as mine was in 2005, residents are reluctant to get involved. They won’t tell a drug dealer or user to stop. Often, they are afraid even to look at miscreants, preferring the safety of closed window blinds and drapes. After a crime actually occurs, people don’t want to be seen talking to the police or to reporters. Witnesses feel intimidated and don’t come forward.
It is the most frustrating of standard behaviors and serves to perpetuate crime and encourage the belief among criminals that they likely will not be caught. I have defied that standard. Knowing that the perpetrators would only return repeatedly unless there was intervention, I felt that the burden of reporting crime fell upon my shoulders…
The notorious event by which many people know of me happened on a dull afternoon in February. After a long workweek, I began Friday evening by watching cartoons for an hour with my son, Patrick. At about 5 o’clock, I prepared to leave for Chinatown to buy fresh crab for dinner. As was my practice, I first looked out the window to make sure there was no trouble on the street; my trips out had often been delayed while I called the police to report some crime.
I was pleased to see that everything outside was calm: just a few pedestrians and a light drizzle. I’d come to love the rain; it tended to keep the streets clear of troublemakers. As I bid my goodbyes, I picked up my outfit, which now consisted of my cell phone, wallet, keys, and the new addition – my pistol.
Locking the security gate that protected our front door, I noticed a dozen or so young people walking on the sidewalk bordering my house, headed in the direction of Shattuck Avenue. As I stepped into my driveway and began to unlock my car door, one of them shouted, “There’s the snitch!”
I turned to see a boy, who looked about 16, coming towards me. I told him to leave my property. But he came closer and swung at me, hitting me in the mouth. I punched him in the chest, nearly knocking him down. After that, rocks and a large tree branch rained down on me.
As the group circled in on me, the boy ran over to another group of a few young males, yelling, “Give me the pistol! Let me have the pistol!” In response, a slender young male lifted his jersey, exposing the handle of a gun in his waistband. The boy – I later found out his name was Melvin – put his right hand on the gun handle.
Fearing for my life, I drew my pistol and fired once, striking him in the shoulder. The entire mob ran to the corner of Shattuck, where my assailant collapsed. (The bullet, I found out later, entered his shoulder and exited his back.)
An ambulance soon arrived and drove him to a hospital, where he would be treated and, two days later, released. Meanwhile, a crowd of more than 50 people had gathered, angry and yelling, some of them threatening to kill me. I and a neighbor stood guard, waiting until police arrived. My wife and son were driven to a hotel for their safety; I was driven to jail.
A Resolve to Stay in Oakland
None of the assailants was arrested or charged with a crime. In court acting as my own attorney, I exposed their two celebrity attorneys as having misrepresented the facts to the judge. The judge immediately granted me a restraining order against Melvin and his mother, who after the incident repeatedly threatened me.
The District Attorney concluded that I acted in self-defense. I was not charged with any crime. Although my new team of attorneys was prepared to fight any legal claim or lawsuit against me by the youth’s mother, my insurance company instead decided – without my prior knowledge – to simply settle the matter.
Crime is still bad on some adjoining streets, but my street has for the most part been relatively quiet ever since – with one notable exception: the evening of February 17, 2007, almost exactly two years later. The family was returning home from a function at our church when my cell phone rang. It was the alarm company, calling to tell me that a glass-break detector had been activated. Shortly after entering my home, I saw that the front windows had been blasted with shotgun pellets. The police speculated that it was retaliation, meant to mark the anniversary of the incident.
Since these events – despite the sometimes strong advice from Oakland police officers and others to move my family to another city for safety’s sake – I have always refused to leave Oakland. Certainly, I am not happy that these events occurred. But they have made me even more determined to make my neighborhood, and Oakland as a whole, a safer place for everyone.
A political candidate standing up to the neighborhood thugs and the Uhuru cult? I wish I was still registered to vote in California. McCullough definitely would have received my vote. Unfortunately, he lost last month’s race to the incumbent.
More from the Chronicle here:
Patrick McCullough still looks each way whenever he steps out his front door and walks down 59th Street in North Oakland. But it’s no longer out of fear.
These days, he feels safe enough to take those walks more often with his wife and son. Instead of the cold stares of angry young men, McCullough is greeted by strangers who thank him for taking a stand against the drug dealers who used to rule Bushrod Park and the surrounding streets.
“This street is so cool right now,” McCullough, 50, said on a recent sunny day. “Look around, man, all these kids playing in the park and no thugs. The immediate neighborhood is much quieter and, for the most part, free of drug dealers, craps shooters and intoxicant-using loiterers.”
A year ago, 59th Street was the scene of a series of violent incidents and confrontations between McCullough and young men police believe are drug dealers. The tension culminated last Feb. 18 when McCullough shot a 15-year-old boy after 15 young men surrounded him in his front yard, shouting “Kill the snitch.”
Some residents say the street is quieter in part because homeowners and police shut down several drug houses in the neighborhood. Others credit a new staff at a nearby recreation center for driving away loiterers and welcoming young children. But many agree that McCullough’s stand made the biggest impact.
Milton Simpkins, a 30-year resident of the street, says McCullough “is the best thing that ever happened for this block.”