Originally published on Youthradio.org, the premier source for youth generated news throughout the globe.
By: Denise TejadaLast week, at least two Oakland residents were hooked up to machines at Highland Hospital's intensive care unit for the same reason: random acts of violence. Four days after being brutally attacked in broad daylight in downtown Oakland, one of the patients died--59-year-old Tian Sheng Yu. The other, 17-year-old Daron Ducote, was critically injured when his car was struck by a vehicle being chased by Oakland's BART police. The transit cops were pursuing a suspect in an alleged beating with a baseball bat. Both incidents hit close to home for Youth Radio. Mr. Yu had been shopping around the corner from our Newsroom when he was beaten. Daron Ducote works here, producing media to help young people make healthy choices. As our reporting team was researching what led to his accident, witnesses contradicted statements by the Oakland Police Department. Bystanders describe what they saw as a police "chase." But according to OPD, the BART police involvement in the disastrous accident does not fall within Oakland's definition of a "chase." I sat down with Oakland Police Department's Public Information Officer Jeff Thomason to get to the bottom of the confusion. What defines a high-speed chase, anyway?
In our interview, Officer Thomason says in a typical chase, a police vehicle follows directly behind the car it's pursuing, with lights and siren on. Because of the dangers involved, Thomason says officers are sometimes mandated to cancel a chase. But if the alleged crime is "something serious," Thomason reports, "someone just killed someone, we are going to give that officer a lot of latitude to go after that criminal and put him in jail."
The question of what counts as a police chase is not just about terminology. Citing National Highway Traffic Safety Administration statistics on the 360 deaths each year caused by police chases, USA Today says that the country's 17,000 police departments are moving toward more restrictive chase policies. But if a pursuit doesn't "count" as a chase, those injured and killed also don't "count" in these statistics and policies.
In the case of Daron Ducote, while the police investigate the events leading to his injury, his friends and family remain hopeful throughout this difficult time. Here's an excerpt from 19-year-old Mario Hammond's thoughts on his friend, and his complex feelings towards Oakland, which he describes as a "war zone" and a city he still loves.
"Today instead of going to class at a continuation school where he's been getting A's in math, my friend and Youth Radio co-worker, is laying in the Intensive Care Unit at Highland Hospital. He has blood on his brain which doctor's say might cause brain damage. He has a broken collar bone, cuts and gashes across his body, and injuries to his spleen. Daron has a natural ability to connect with people, which I've always admired. He's one of those people who has so much to say-- And right now I'm praying that he gets more time to say it.
You can try your best to stay out of trouble in Oakland, but somehow violence finds its way to the innocent. I'm wondering why the police and public officials are failing to keep our streets safe. Oakland is my first and only home; I have lived here all my life, 19 years to be exact. I can remember a time when Oakland wasn't a war zone, but a source of originality and love for community. I remember when the worst thing that could occur during school was a fist fight. As of today, I could not honestly tell you that I want to raise a family here. Which is sad, because even with all of the chaos, I still love Oakland to the fullest. But I can't let my child go through what I am going through currently."
You can hear Mario Hammond's full commentary on youthradio.org.
Also from Youth Radio-Youth Media International
Youth Radio/Youth Media International (YMI) is youth-driven converged media production company that delivers the best youth news, culture and undiscovered talent to a cross section of audiences. To read more youth news from around the globe and explore high quality audio and video features, visit Youthradio.org