Oakland activists and community members are mourning the death of a well-known local activist who was killed in a home invasion, and the police chief is now calling on help in the wake of the deadliest month of the year in the East Bay's largest city.
Dirk Tillotson was killed last Friday on yet another violent weekend in the city. Police were initially investigating the situation as a home invasion, but say it could be something else.
Tillotson's neighborhood in Oakland was quiet today as a possible reflection of the sorrow felt by his neighbors who grew to know him and his activism well.
He championed education equity and founded an Oakland and New York based non-profit organization called Great School Choices with his friend Paul Le.
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"Words can't explain who Dirk is," Le said. "My colleague called him a movement. I'm going to use that because I can't think of a better word to describe him."
The slaying comes after 17 homicides were reported in Oakland last month, bringing the 2021 total to 106. Police Chief LeRonne Armstrong says staffing is a huge problem for his department.
"Unfortunately, we will have to bring out staff from inside the building, put them into field rolls and have to leverage the use of overtime," Armstrong said Monday, adding that there are fewer than 700 officers on Oakland streets.
Over the weekend, the Oakland Police Department responded to 58 robberies and 41 gunfire instances. Four people were killed, authorities said via Twitter.
Police say they believe on Friday night someone, or perhaps multiple people, broke into Tillotson's home in Oakland's Maxwell Park neighborhood.
Tillotston's wife was shot and wounded but is in stable condition.
Neighbor Addis Rezene said he's talked to her and said "she's still hurting very bad."
Rezene has lived next door to the Tillotson's for over eight years.
"We became very close friends, like brothers," he said. "I never really knew a man like him with the love and kindness that he had."
On Monday, Oakland Police Department chief LeRonne Armstrong talked about this and more than 100 other homicides that have left the city reeling this year.
The Oakland Police Department believes Tillotson's death was targeted.
"We do believe individuals came specifically to this home," Chief Armstrong said. "Motives can't be discussed. We have a couple of angles, none of which should have led to his death."
Tillotson's death shocked his friends, family and community but say it will not be in vain and will continue the activism he began.
A memorial is expected to take place in the next few days at Maxwell Park.