Merchants Arm Themselves Amid Oakland Chinatown Attacks

NBC Universal, Inc.

As attacks in Oakland’s Chinatown continue to spike, some merchants are taking matters into their own hands and arming themselves.

The owner of a liquor store took out his gun Monday and fired to stop a robbery in the street.

“He always helps people chase the bad guy and that’s how he is,” said Barry Szeto. “He won’t just stand and do nothing when he sees things he will react.”

That’s how Szeto describes the owner of Chinatown’s Park Liquor store. Szeto says when the merchant saw a woman getting roughed up and robbed in front of his store and brought out his gun and intervened. 

“He was able to fire four shots into the air to scare the bad guy,” said Szeto.

But while the robber ran away with the woman’s camera, police arrested the merchant for discharging his gun. 

“While we understand the community is concerned my message is we don’t want our business owners or others to begin to arm themselves,” said Oakland Police Chief LeRonne Armstrong.

Oakland’s new police chief says the department is doing all it can to address the spike in crime in Chinatown. He says police are responding quickly to 911 calls but worries adding more guns to the mix is a recipe for even more problems. 

“When weapons are fired into our community there could be unintended victims,” said Armstrong. “People hit by gunfire and we want to avoid that as much as we can.”

He says private armed security guards now patrolling the area have also been instructed not to use their weapons if lives aren’t on the line. 

“This is worse than a war zone in Afghanistan,” said Szeto.

Longtime Chinatown resident Szeto says citizens don’t know what else to do. Armed with mace and a baton himself he’s also helping patrol his neighborhood. He says something has to change. 

“Here in this neighborhood you get attacked on a 24/7 basis, this is ridiculous,” said Szeto. “We cannot live under such circumstances every day. We’re not talking once in a while … every day.”

It’s unclear whether the liquor store owner will be charged, the DA said the case is under investigation. 

Contact Us