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Gunfire Joke By Oakland Councilmember Called 'Inappropriate'

OAKLAND (CBS SF) -- Gunfire outside City Hall while the Oakland City Council was in session on Tuesday elicited a joke caught on video that didn't sit well with some of the gathered East Bay politicians.

While the shooting was alarming enough, the casual joke made by a councilmember right after has made things worse.

In the video, Oakland councilmember Annie Campbell Washington is seen standing after hearing the gun shots during a committee meeting.

"Is that gunfire?" Campbell Washington asks.

As she heads to the window, council member Rebecca Kaplan takes the microphone.

"This is a Rorschach test. Who, when they hear gunfire, runs toward the window and who runs from the window?" asked Kaplan. "If you run to the window, you are probably from an upscale neighborhood."

As the other councilmembers in the room laugh, Campbell Washington is seen heading out the door.

The city council meeting continues as usual for a vote until the shooting is confirmed.

"I am still shaken up about this," said Campbell Washington when asked about the shooting.

Campbell Washington told KPIX 5 she ran out of the room to check on her 12-year-old daughter who was outside city hall. At the nearby intersection of 14th and Broadway, police said one man was shot before being taken to the hospital.

"It was a very close call with my child," said Campbell Washington. "I am very shaken by that and I know every mother feels the same way."

The joke Kaplan told inside City Hall fell flat with other council members.

"I think that's just an inappropriate comment to make," said Councilman Larry Reid.

When KPIX 5 asked Kaplan about it, she replied, "The commentary that some neighborhood struggle more with gun violence than other neighborhoods is a true fact."

When asked if she could defend laughing after the shooting, Kaplan said the joke was about what happened in the council chamber.

"I was not laughing at the shooting," said Kaplan. "My point is because the camera did not show the room, people didn't know what I was referring to. There was a large crowd in the room, some of whom ran toward the window some of whom ran from the window."

Reid said the gunshots were no laughing matter in a city plagued by violence.

"This is downtown Oakland; heart of the city. For that to happen is just insane," said Reid.

When asked if she would you go back and change things after her fellow councilmember called her reaction inappropriate, Kaplan clarified her stance on street violence.

"Well, I think that it is essential we make clear that we are taking action against gun violence and that is the response that people need to understand," said Kaplan.

Reid said he's been working inside Oakland City Hall for 20 years, and this is not the first time he's heard gunshots outside.

The council members agreed that gun violence remains a major problem in Oakland, where there were 88 homicides last year.

They also said they are hopeful and confident that the new police chief will help turn things around in the coming year.

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