[Hpn] SFGate: Defending his turf/An Oakland man, after enduring harassment from drug dealers for years, decides to 'take my safety in my own hands' and shoots an attacker
Sat, 26 Feb 2005 13:29 -0800
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Saturday, February 26, 2005 (SF Chronicle)
Defending his turf/An Oakland man, after enduring harassment from drug dealers for years, decides to 'take my safety in my own hands' and shoots an attacker
Jim Herron Zamora, Chronicle Staff Writer
Patrick McCullough has been complaining to Oakland police about drug
dealers for the past 10 years -- and telling the young men who congregate
in front of his house at 59th Street and Shattuck Avenue to beat it.
For his efforts, the 49-year-old has endured harassment, threats,
vandalism and an assault in 2003.
Then, during an evening rainstorm on Feb. 18, about 15 young men
surrounded McCullough and shouted "snitch" and other taunts as he walked
from his front door to his driveway.
Someone hit him with a branch, and others threw punches. McCullough told
police he had seen a 17-year-old reach for a gun, so he drew his own gun
and shot his would-be assailant in the arm.
"I'm a man, not a mouse nor a vigilante. I'm not looking for medals, just
a safe neighborhood and peaceful existence," said McCullough, who grew up
in a housing project on the south side of Chicago. "I don't believe in
vigilantism under any circumstances. What I did and will continue to do is
take my safety in my own hands."
McCullough was arrested on suspicion of felony assault and is free on $15,
000 bail. Prosecutors are deciding whether to file charges against him or
any of his assailants. McCullough has no criminal record and does not need
a permit to keep the gun, which he purchased legally, on his property.
"I expect we'll be making a decision next week," said Deputy District
Attorney Jim Lee.
Lt. Lawrence Green, who oversees patrols in North Oakland, is urging
prosecutors to charge the wounded 17-year-old and some of his friends with
felony assault. Green said the family of the 17-year-old has urged
prosecutors to charge McCullough.
"The reason that Patrick was assaulted by these suspects," Green said, "is
that he stands up to drug dealers in a way that normal citizens do not."
Even before the incident, Green had added patrols to the neighborhood, and
a surveillance team left 59th Street about a half hour before the
encounter. In the past two weeks, police have arrested seven men on drug
charges within a block of McCullough's home, located in the 500 block of
Green and other officers have advised McCullough to move away. But he and
his wife, Daphne, refuse, saying they can't afford to buy a new place.
They bought their home under a first-time buyer's program designed "to
provide stability" in Oakland neighborhoods and would lose half their
equity if they left before 2014.
"We feel trapped right now," said McCullough, who worked his way through
college as a taxi driver after a stint in the Navy. "I'm pretty much
resigned that we should move. But I don't want to. We'd been planning to
Some neighbors and friends think he's crazy to stay, but McCullough is a
hero to others who have spent years trying to improve crime-ridden areas.
"It would be a real shame for 59th Street and for Oakland if they move,"
said Don Link, chairman of Oakland's volunteer network Neighborhood Crime
Prevention Councils, who lives nearby. Link and others are urging
prosecutors not to charge McCullough.
If drug dealers think they can drive away active residents, "it could
unravel community policing," he said.
Bob Brokl, who has lived on 59th Street for more than 30 years, said, "I
would move" if he were McCullough.
"It's a shame because Patrick and his family are kind of ideal neighbors,
" Brokl said. "Patrick is not seeking confrontation. Patrick is just this
genuine family guy who doesn't want to be forced out."
Although the block has been tough for decades, the McCullough family lives
in a part of North Oakland that is rapidly gentrifying and has seen a 21
percent drop in major crimes since 2003.
A three-bedroom home about two blocks away recently sold for $731,000
after receiving 43 offers.
Tom Nemeth, a neighbor, and 11 other residents filed several nuisance
suits in small claims court against a 59th Street property owner who
allegedly allowed a home on the same 500 block to be taken over by drug
dealers. The case will be heard in late March. A similar successful suit
in 2003 prodded the owner of troubled property on the same block to sell.
The McCulloughs did not join that lawsuit but have twice sued the city to
make a concrete traffic barrier on 59th Street a permanent structure. The
steel and concrete barrier, originally a temporary measure, prevents
vehicle traffic from entering off Shattuck.
It was installed in 1993 at the request of residents after one of
Oakland's most infamous killings, in which a man sprayed a neighborhood
bar, Bosn's Locker -- now known as Dorsey's Locker -- with gunfire in
1992, killing two patrons and wounding eight others.
Drug dealing and other problems have ebbed and flowed since 1994.
The taunts and threats against McCullough were never accompanied by
violence until 2003, when Wayne Camper, a former Newark Memorial High
School football star, accused McCullough of calling the police on him and
his friends. Camper and two others attacked him, police said.
Camper's assault trial was dismissed without a verdict after he was shot
to death on 58th Street on Aug. 5, 2003, during a feud between gangs from
North Oakland and South Berkeley.
That was about the time McCullough bought a gun.
Things on 59th were somewhat quiet for about a year. But it got worse in
August, when a vigil for Camper and homicide victim Robert Perry erupted
in a melee.
The McCulloughs dialed 911 and have called police several times a week
Two days after his most recent incident, McCullough said a man who called
himself "Cornbread" stopped by to say the young men would quit hanging out
in front of the house when the family was home but wouldn't stop
"business" on the street. He also warned McCullough to "be careful."
"He said, 'These boys are crazy, and they don't care about nothing,' "
McCullough said. "He didn't have to spell it out. I know it's not going to
be toilet paper in the bushes."
E-mail Jim Herron Zamora at email@example.com. ----------------------------------------------------------------------
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