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Oakland Boosts 'Operation Ceasefire' After Baby, Father Killed

OAKLAND (CBS SF) -- Hours after a young father and his infant son were shot and killed while sleeping inside an East Oakland home, city leaders said they are looking to local youth to help solve the city's crime problems.

Mayor Jean Quan and police Chief Sean Whent held a news conference Wednesday afternoon outside of Youth Uprising, an East Oakland youth leadership community center where a number of young Oakland residents met earlier Wednesday with police officers to address a recent spike in deadly shootings.

"What happened last extremely tragic," Whent said of the double homicide of 20-year-old Fresno resident Andrew Thomas and his 1-year-old son Drew.

Whent said someone entered the backyard of the family home in the 400 block of Ghormley Avenue around 2:45 a.m. and fired into the house, fatally shooting Thomas and his son.

"It does appear to be targeted," he said.

Whent said police are investigating whether the double homicide is linked to the fatal shooting of Thomas's cousin, Alquino Rivera, in East Oakland early Saturday morning.

Thomas and his son live in Fresno and were visiting relatives in Oakland for a few days to attend a family birthday party. They had extended their stay in order to attend Rivera's funeral, according to Konya Baylis, Thomas's aunt.

The horrific crime is the latest in a string of recent violence, including a July 17 shooting that killed 8-year-old Alaysha Carradine as she slept over at a friend's Dimond District home. Two other children and a woman inside the home were injured but survived.

"We can't keep getting together to mourn and bury our children in this community—it's unacceptable and it has to stop," Whent said today.

The chief said the city is devoting all available resources to an investigation into this morning's double homicide, in addition to investigating other recent violent crimes.

As part of its latest crime-fighting strategy, the Police Department is reviving Operation Ceasefire, an anti-violence program launched last fall that teams police with community members in the city's most crime-stricken areas to prevent violence.

"The shooting of Andrew Thomas and his son Drew is another example that no one is coming to East Oakland to save us," said Olis Simmons, Youth Uprising's founder and Chief Executive Officer.

Working with police as part of Operation Ceasefire, Youth Uprising members will "jointly be crafting a public safety policy not only for the community but from the community," Simmons said.

With a newly graduated police academy and an end to longtime hiring freezes, the city's police force can now fully fund the program, Whent said today.

Both the police chief and mayor say the program has already proven successful in dozens of other cities throughout the nation.

"Part of the solution is Youth Uprising," Quan said.

Simmons said Youth Uprising's members, who range in age from teens to young adults, are often aware of the community tensions that precede violent crimes.

Through Operation Ceasefire, police will work with young Oakland residents to speak up during times when retaliatory violence and other crimes are likely to occur, she said.

Amir Aziz, a 20-year-old Youth Uprising member who sat in on Wednesday's discussion with police at the community center, said peer-to-peer discussions will be emphasized as part of the Operation Ceasefire strategy, as well as improving relations between local youth and police.

"I think the power is all in us...because of the level of social interaction we have," Aziz said. "To enforce it, that's where the police come in."

In addition to strengthening Operation Ceasefire, the Police Department is beefing up patrols in neighborhoods where retaliatory shootings are likely, Quan said.

(Copyright 2013 by CBS San Francisco and Bay City News Service. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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