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Mother Mourns Son Killed In Oakland Chinatown Shooting; Homicide Rate Doubles Since 2020

OAKLAND (CBS SF) -- A young man was fatally gunned down just a block away from the Oakland Police Department Monday afternoon. Officers inside could hear the gunfire.

Grief stricken, Rhonda Hampton stood on the sidewalk, watching officers collect evidence in the slaying of her 22-year-old son.

Chris Cawthorne is Oakland's 52nd homicide victim of 2021 -- a murder rate more than twice what it was last year at this time and a sign of the escalating violence on the East Bay city's streets.

Investigators believe he died in what appears to be a deliberate, premeditated shooting. His mother is left to wonder why.

"I grew up in East Oakland and I just hate that my son was a casualty of what happens for young black men," Hampton told KPIX 5.

The shooting happened just after 2 p.m. in Oakland's crowded Chinatown district.

"There was a series of gunshots that can be heard from the police department," Oakland police Capt. Bobby Hookfin said.

Bullet casings were scattered on the sidewalk, next to Cawthorne's white car, where he was found on the passenger side.

"Multiple rounds, I believe our shot spotter detected at least 20 rounds," Hookfin said of the ferocity of the attack.

Family and friends gathered at the crime scene to grieve and comfort each other. Cawthorne was not only a son and a brother but the father of a two-year-old little girl.

Hampton confirmed with KPIX that her son was being looked at as a suspect in the murder of his aunt last June in San Francisco. She doesn't believe what happened Monday was an act of retaliation.

Cawthorne was never charged in that case.

"They didn't have anything to charge him with that or hold him so they had to release him," Hampton said.

Police do not believe Cawthorne was alone, and others may have fled from the car just before the shooting started.

Police said they were canvassing the area for surveillance video and that the investigation is ongoing. Anyone who may have witnessed the shooting is asked to contact the department's homicide unit at 510-238-3821.

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