by Shawn Chitnis
OAKLAND, Calif. (CBS SF) -- Drivers traveling through Alameda County on Sunday were still processing the shocking news that a toddler riding in a vehicle was killed after being struck by a bullet from a rolling gun battle between two vehicles on Interstate Highway 880 the day before.
"It's an absolute tragedy. My heart goes out to the family," said Chris Schalge, who spent part of his day driving on the freeway before stopping in Oakland. "I'm really sorry to hear about that child and their family. What they're having to go through, it's unimaginable."
Relatives confirmed to KPIX 5 on Saturday that a young boy had not turned two years old yet. He was hit by a stray bullet. California High Patrol said there was crossfire between two cars on Saturday along I-880 when the family of the young boy, Jasper Wu, drove by in a third car.
"It's heartbreaking, you know? You never want to hear that about your city," an Oakland resident said while stopping for gas on Sunday. "There's no kind of explanation for that. There's no kind of justification for that."
On Monday, Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf released the following statement regarding the tragedy:
"To lose a 23-month-old to gun violence is as heart-wrenching and as sickening as it gets. As a mother and as a mayor, I'm devastated by the totality of human loss and trauma caused by gun violence in our society. As our department assists the California Highway Patrol to investigate this tragedy, and bring the perpetrators to justice, we call on anyone who may have information to share it with CHP investigators immediately."
Community leaders say the violence happening in Oakland is unlike anything they've seen in their lifetime. While the crime has been out of control all year in their eyes, they feel like this latest shooting only underlines the need for a new approach to stopping the loss of innocent life.
"The idea that you don't expect anything like this, it's just so far removed from anything you could have thought of as you started your journey on this day," Bishop Bob Jackson told KPIX 5 on Sunday. "It's the worst that I've seen and I've lived here all my life. I'll be 76 next month."
Jackson acknowledged the murders happening in his city during one of his services at Acts Full Gospel Church. He hears the frustration from his community, unsure what to do when someone could be the random victim of gun violence while driving on the freeway.
"It's almost unprecedented. I've never seen anything like it," he said. "You would be in your house 24 hours of the day with bars and all of that because it's everywhere. It's not just on the freeway."
He and other Oakland residents say there isn't a change that can be made in everyday life to try and avoid these shootings. Jackson has called on a long-term approach from city leaders and law enforcement because he says only then will Oakland begin to address the issue.
"How can you avoid that?" the Oakland resident asked while filling up his gas tank. "People need to change some of the things they're doing and not do some of the things that they're doing cause it's affecting everybody."
Even those who live elsewhere in the Bay Area say they cannot avoid certain freeways just because of violence that makes its way onto their commute.
"It's kind of an unavoidable situation, I can't think of what else I would do," Schalge said. "I wouldn't avoid the freeway but that doesn't mean something shouldn't be done about this."
The Mayor's Office did not respond to KPIX 5's request for comment on this shooting. CHP said Sunday it did not have any new information about suspects or vehicle descriptions in this case.
Jackson hopes the mayor will declare a state of emergency after this shooting and so many other incidents of violence in 2021. He argues that a new level of coordination and resources for local law enforcement agencies is needed to solve this crisis.
"You never know when the senseless violence is going to break out and when your life could be in jeopardy," he said. "I don't know what's causing it, but I know one thing: it seems like only God can stop it."
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