Oakland police say a 37-year-old man and his baby daughter who were killed in a residential fire early Saturday were the victims of homicide, and authorities say the fire, the deaths and the related injuries of family members are linked to other recent crimes.
Police spokeswoman Johnna A. Watson said in a statement Saturday afternoon that police believe a homicide on April 10 in East Oakland and a fire at a business in the same location on April 14 may linked to Saturday's killings and fire.
She also said that someone police investigators believe was involved in the April 10 shooting turned himself into Oakland Police on Thursday and was placed under arrest. That case was forwarded to the Alameda District Attorney's Office for review and charging.
On Saturday morning, police and firefighters were dispatched to a home in the 9500 block of Stearns Avenue following a report of an intentional structure fire. When authorities arrived, several people were still trapped inside.
Oakland Fire Department arson Investigators' preliminary investigation indicated the fire was intentionally set, and they are continuing to investigate.
Family member Abdul Alsamma got home minutes prior to the incident. He told NBC Bay Area that he smelled gas everywhere and that every exterior doorway was set on fire. But he rushed inside the home to try and rescue several family members still inside.
"I take my aunt and then I tried to go to the back to save Hassam and his daughter and they burned down the door. I mean they tried to kill everybody," he said.
Abdul Alsamma said his cousin’s husband, 37-year-old Hassam Nagi and his 1-year-old daughter Alia were killed in the fire and they were found together by firefighters in an upstairs bedroom.
“He tried to save his daughter,” he said. He added his cousin, who is pregnant and her mother were rushed to an Oakland hospital with burns.
Mohammed Alsamma said that Nagi worked as a cashier at the store that was also set on fire three nights ago.
“There was a problem between two people. They knew each other and he ran to our store,” he said. “We didn’t do anything."
Abdul Alsamma said that a family member owns the property that was targeted but said the market and liquor store was rented and operated by someone else. He said he doesn’t understand why they would be targeted for retribution.
“We didn’t have nothing to do with that shooting,” he said.
According to the family, some of the family members came to the United States in the 1970s. While others more recently were all seeking asylum from violence in Yemen. Now, they trying to make sense of this senseless loss of life in Oakland.
Also contributing to the investigation are the Alameda County Arson Task Force and the Alameda County District Attorney's Office.
Anyone with information is asked to contact the Oakland Police Department homicide section at 510-238-3821 or the department's tip line at 510-238-7950 or the Crime Stoppers of Oakland tip line 510-777-8572.
Police and Crime Stoppers of Oakland are offering rewards in cases where a death is involved. A reward of up to $40,000 may be offered for information leading to an arrest made in today's case.