Neighbors in East Oakland are getting praise for helping defuse a situation involving police and an armed man passed out in a car.
It all started with a 911 call Tuesday morning from neighbors who worried a man passed out in his car on the street was hurt.
When officers arrived, they discovered a weapon on the man’s lap, all of which could have been a recipe for a deadly confrontation. But a neighbor called someone else for help – the Anti Police Terror Project.
“They had drawn all their weapons towards him and he was unresponsive,” said Oakland resident and witness Mable Kimble.
Get a weekly recap of the latest San Francisco Bay Area housing news. Sign up for NBC Bay Area’s Housing Deconstructed newsletter.
She is one of the neighbors who kept watch as police officers flooded her street in East Oakland. Photos taken from another neighbor, Carina Lieu, show Oakland police officers with their guns pointed at the man inside this silver car.
“I yelled to the cops, ‘the man needs medical attention!’” said Kimble.
Lieu reached out to the criminal justice advocacy group, the Anti-Police Terror Project, telling them, “get here before things take a turn for the worse.”
“It was the first time that we’ve had a situation where Cat Brooks has been willing to contact the police department in any way and provide information that can safely resolve the situation,” said Oakland Police Chief LeRonne Armstrong.
“To OPD’s credit, words that we are not used to hearing Cat Brooks say but, to their credit, from the time that we were on scene, they knew who we were, they gave us the info we needed,” said Brooks.
Co-Founder Cat Brooks says the group reached out to the suspect’s mother, who rushed to the scene.
“He’s surrounded by cops, he knows there’s a gun in his lap, he knows how this plays out,” said Brooks.
Back in 2018, a similar situation played out very differently.
Police shot and killed a homeless man named Joshua Pawlik, who was asleep on the ground but had a gun in his possession.
This time, after four hours, the suspect’s mother convinced the man to surrender to police.
“This was a new day,” said Brooks. “It was a turning point.”
Chief Armstrong says there’s a fine line between neighbors being helpful and neighbors creating distractions.
“We have to balance that,” he said. “We don’t want to introduce people who might escalate a situation as well.”
Brooks said this was a great example of what could happen when the community and police work together.