Posted on Wed, Dec. 21, 2005

Group criticizes police response


A homicide victim lay undiscovered on Fifth Street for several hours Tuesday morning before neighbors found him a few paces from his grandmother's door.

While authorities have not yet determined when 24-year-old Curtis Evans died, the Contra Costa Sheriff's Office did receive a 911 call reporting gunfire the previous evening, about seven hours before the homicide investigation began.

"We received a call about 1 a.m., someone hearing shots" up the street, said Lt. Donny Gordon of the Contra Costa Sheriff's Office. "The deputy who responded did not find anything at the time."

The apparent mistake angered community activists, who had coincidentally organized a demonstration Tuesday at Sheriff Warren Rupf's office in Martinez to complain about perceived inattention to North Richmond's policing needs.

"This is ridiculous. This young man could have been saved, possibly, if the deputy had driven down the street," said Willie Jay, a member of the North Richmond chapter of the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN).

Rupf agreed to meet with ACORN today.

The killing was the fourth this year in the unincorporated section of North Richmond. It came one week after a similar incident in Richmond's Parchester Village neighborhood, where Richmond police got a report of gunfire during the predawn hours but did not spot two homicide victims later found dead in a parked car.

A crowd gathered about 8 a.m. near the body, which had several gunshot wounds and was wedged between two parked cars in the 1600 block of Fifth Street.

Some neighbors went to look for help while others were talking on their cell phones when a patrolling deputy noticed the group about 8:20 a.m., Gordon said.

Evans, a Sacramento resident, visited his grandmother Monday night, authorities said. The family declined comment Tuesday.

But Jay, who visited with the family Tuesday afternoon, said Evans' grandmother called 911 after hearing shots about 10 p.m. To her knowledge, no deputies came to investigate. ACORN members said that scenario is all too familiar in North Richmond.

"When you call the sheriff, they come two, three, four, five hours later; and sometimes they don't make it at all," Jay said. "It's always been bad, but it's getting progressively worse."

Jay and others in her group want more deputies patrolling North Richmond and better communication with sheriff's officials about recurring neighborhood problems. They also want authorities to take a harder line with those committing quality-of-life crimes that often fly below the radar in a town infamous for violent crime.

The comments about poor communication and patrol work were a surprise to Gordon, who said he met recently with ACORN members, distributed his cell phone number and encouraged them to call whenever they liked. Gordon heads the sheriff's Bay Substation, which polices North Richmond.

"I'm very willing to work with ACORN. I feel we've been very interactive. I don't know what would have caused that perception," Gordon said, responding to the complaints. "I know people say the sheriff's office has not done everything it can do, but ... we're here to protect the public and save lives, and we're invested in that 100 percent."

Reach Karl Fischer at 510-262-2728 or

2005 and wire service sources. All Rights Reserved.