This site displays photos of makeshift memorials that spontaneously arise after individuals are killed by violence in Oakland. Each site of a killing is photographed whether or not a memorial is found there....

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Gary W. King, #100

Gary W. King, 20
Killed 9/20/07 4:45 pm
5300 block of MLK Jr. Way



Anonymous said...

Racist Violence from Jena to Oakland

by George Ciccariello-Maher

September 24, 2007
It's Not Just a Southern Thing
Racist Violence from Jena to Oakland

While tens of thousands of well-meaning activists travel to Jena,
Louisiana to rightly protest the miscarriage of justice in the case of the
"Jena 6," police killings continue unabated in Oakland. Gary King is only
the most recent victim.

"See you when I get there"

As the sun climbs slowly down the sky over 54th Street in North Oakland,
shafts of light come down between the tracks of the BART train above. We
are standing on the patch of ground that divides Martin Luther King, Jr.
Way. Next to us, in the northbound lanes, is a large patch of blood.

A makeshift shrine has been erected here, under the BART tracks, to
memorialize the life and death of 20-year-old Gary King Jr., a.k.a.
G-Money. T-shirts with pictures of the dead teen smiling among friends sit
alongside flowers, stuffed animals, and bottles of Hennessey and Grey
Goose with lit candles in them. While much of the Henny has been spilled
on the ground and poured on the blood patch by those mourning their fallen
comrade, an equal amount has been drunk by those who have been here since
10am, attempting to grapple with their grief and rage.

Such memorials are all-too-common a sight on the streets of Oakland, where
this year's murder count is currently pushing the 100-mark. As one penned
inscription reads: "2007 is a fucked up year for our people in the Bay."
This feeling of desperation and inevitability is also expressed in another
discreet note, which says quite simply, "U in a better place, see you when
I get there." But King's memorial is less sadness than anger and outrage:
on Thursday afternoon, Gary King was shot in the back and killed as he
fled from the Oakland Police, but it is unlikely that his death will ever
enter into the city's "homicide" tally.

Shortly after I approached the shrine with a photographer friend, a young
man rolled across the crosswalk on a low-rider bicycle. "Who you with?" he
asked suspiciously. When he realized we weren't with the mainstream press,
his suspicion dissipated. Pointing across the street at the news van, he
made clear why he was suspicious: "They tellin' lies," he asserted. And
indeed, during the four hours that we remained at the shrine, the
reporters remained across the street, broadcasting "from the scene" only
in the loosest of senses. They interviewed no one. They didn't need to:
they had already gotten their story from the police.

Suspected of being a suspect

The day before, at about 4:30pm, Gary King and a group of friends were
walking out of East Bay Liquors. A patrol officer, Sgt. Pat Gonzales, was
headed southbound on the other side of MLK, near the 55th Street light.
The officer claims to have identified King as a potential suspect in a
murder that had occurred nearby a month prior (note here the words
"potential" and "suspect"). For anyone that knows the geography of the
incident, this "identification" was quite a feat: a full block away,
looking diagonally across six lanes and between the thick pillars
supporting the BART tracks, Gonzales was allegedly capable of identifying

The officer crossed under the tracks, tires squealing, to confront the
group of teens in front of the liquor store. According to witnesses,
Gonzales grabbed King by his dreads, while it remains unclear if the
officer was attempting to carry out an arrest. After King pulled away from
Gonzales, the officer used his Taser to try to incapacitate this
"potential suspect." When this didn't work, King took off fleeing across
the MLK crosswalk. Before even reaching the divider, Gonzales had shot him
twice in the back. No fewer than a dozen witnesses corroborated this to
me, which isn't surprising since the shooting took place in broad daylight
on a busy street.

According to a witness, who identifies himself as King's cousin, after
shooting King, Gonzales grabbed him. "He held his gun in my face and told
me I better watch it." The officer then approached the dying King to
handcuff him, before leaving him lying in the street to call backup.
According to witnesses, it was only after the backup arrived that an
ambulance was called. After being left bleeding, handcuffed on the
pavement for nearly 15 minutes, Gary King was dead by the time he reached
Highland Hospital. He was the third fatal victim of an "officer-involved
shooting" this year, a polite term the OPD likes to use when it kills

Dozens of police cars then maintained a blockade, shutting down the
six-lane street for more than four hours. According to one witness to the
shooting, this was "to prevent a riot," and also to give the officers a
chance to cover-up the details of the killing and, according to some,
plant a gun on the victim. King's cousin is clearly suffering when I speak
with him: "They shot my cousin right in my face We traumatized, we fucked
up." The victim's brothers, too, are paying their respects. One is a
teary-eyed 17-year old wearing a sweatshirt with pictures of King and the
message "R.I.P. G-Money."

According to Gonzales, via a statement from the OPD, the officer felt a
gun in King's pants, and after the young man attempted to flee, Gonzales
claims that he was seen reaching into his waistband. The press has largely
reiterated the official story: King was an "armed suspect" who threatened
an officer. Case closed. One local news outlet even went out of its way to
outdo the Police statement, writing that King had "pulled a gun" on the
officer. Perhaps most shocking is the fact that King is consistently
reported as a "murder suspect," without qualification. Even the police
department had argued that he was merely a "potential suspect," that is,
Gary King was suspected of being a suspect. Most shocking is the fact
that, days after the fact, the OPD downgraded this initial statement: King
is now posthumously considered to have been a "person of interest" in the
murder, not even a suspect.

But the police story, repeated by the mainstream press, doesn't square
with the numerous witnesses who described the shooting to me. Firstly,
everyone on the scene denies that King was carrying a gun, or that a gun
was found on the scene as the OPD is claiming. "He ain't no gangbanger,"
an aunt tells me. Moreover, even "neutral" witnesses like the cashier at
East Bay Liquors (who nevertheless claims that King was friendly and
well-liked) never saw King reach for a weapon: as he fled, they say, he
was holding up his pants by his belt, and the officer shot him in the back
without provocation.

As the train passes overhead, a woman who identifies herself as a senior
financial officer at UC Berkeley asks, "we hear so much about
Black-on-Black crime, why don't we hear about white-on-Black crime?" It
has emerged since the shooting that Gonzales has been involved in two
other shootings in recent years, one of which resulted in a fatality. On
that occasion, the officer was cleared of any wrongdoing. He has now been
placed on "paid administrative leave," standard OPD procedure, while he
waits to be cleared once more.

"Panther Country"

This is, as one small handwritten note makes clear, "Black Panther
Country." This is true in the most literal of senses: Huey Newton, Bobby
Seale, David Hilliard, and Bobby Hutton all grew up on the MLK corridor
within a 5-block radius of the shooting. Moreover, East Bay Liquors
(formerly Bill's Liquor Store) was boycotted by Panthers in 1971, before
current Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums negotiated a truce. While North Oakland
has largely been replaced by East Oakland as the center of the city's
Black population, the gentrification that has affected this area has only
made life for the remaining Black population even more difficult. As more
middle-class whites enter North Oakland, spilling over from Berkeley in
the North, security becomes increasingly a priority of the OPD.

While the Panthers aren't around any longer, the King memorial is not
lacking in revolutionary messages. Scrawled across the BART pillar is the
accusation: "The Police did this," and "Fuck 5-0." Another mourner, using
a phrase popularized by hip-hop group dead prez, claims to be
"revolutionary but gangsta." Perhaps more ominously, one message reads:
"The streets iz watching justice will be served 4 my brother in arms." A
middle-aged man arrives, clearly angry, and begins to address some
onlookers. "A boy was murdered here! Why ain't this intersection closed?
We need to shut this intersection down for a week!"

But this isn't the only message that appears at the memorial. An older man
arrives on the scene, telling the young men who saw King murdered that
they shouldn't blame the killer. Instead, they should "accept Jesus." The
discussion is occasionally very heated, and one witness to the killing
responds politely: "I'm not tryin' to hear that right now." Minutes later,
a mourner heaves a 40 bottle, which explodes next to a passing cop car.

"He gets those when he stressed"

As dusk approached, the mood was understandably somber. A young mourner
and friend of G-Money began to stumble erratically. He crashed into my
friend before falling into the rush-hour traffic streaming down MLK.
There's a moment of chaos, as we attempt to block traffic to prevent a
second death in as many days. The commuters are uncooperative and
oblivious as they head northward toward Berkeley, Kensington, and Albany,
and it is only with difficulty that we clear the lane while the young man
is lifted back onto the median. A flurry of calls are made simultaneously
to 911. He is curled up, muscles tense and writhing as drool pours from
his mouth.

The very same young, Black men so often criminalized by the police crowd
around their fellow mourner. One strokes his head while another removes
his own shirt as a pillow for the young man. An ambulance pulls up ten
minutes later, despite the fact that we are a mere block from a hospital.
That's about ten minutes longer than the police backup took the day
before, and today, no police respond to the emergency call. "He's having a
seizure," King's cousin explains, gold teeth glinting "he gets those when
he stressed."

A gallery of photographs taken by Jeff St. Andrews at the Gary King
memorial is available at:

George Ciccariello-Maher is a Ph.D. candidate in political theory at the
University of California, Berkeley. He lives somewhere between Oakland and
Caracas, Venezuela, and is currently writing about the history of Oakland
hip-hop. He can be reached at gjcm(at)

Anonymous said...

I went to jr. high and some of high school with Gary... he was a good kid with a big smile.He was always friendly to people. Its a shame that he had to go like this... now his parents are looking for answers and are left without a son and his brothers and family are also without him. please yall take care of each other. stop this violence! peace and blesings!

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reg said...


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