Senior Alan Blueford Killed by Oakland Police
To the justice system, he was a delinquent and convicted felon. To his friends and family, he was a happy, optimistic young man. To Skyline’s teachers he was quiet and respectful student that tried to stay on track for graduation.
Now, however, just two weeks after he attended prom, Skyline senior Alan Blueford is dead after being shot three times by an Oakland police officer, after Blueford allegedly pointed a gun at him.
In the wake of his May 6 death, a series of large protests have linked it to other controversial killings of young black men, such as Oscar Grant and Trayvon Martin.
“It wasn’t his time to go,” said Amari Lott, a junior and Blueford’s cousin who has helped organize the protests. “He had his life taken away by a cop. I’m angry and sad still. He didn’t deserve to die. He was about to graduate and go on but his life was cut short.”
Police say they have three witnesses, as yet unidentified, who verify that Blueford had a gun and pointed it at a policeman, identified by the San Francisco Chronicle as Miguel Masso. However, the Blueford family and protesters say the official story keeps changing and they don’t believe the Skyline senior possessed a gun.
“No young man deserved to be shot cold-bloodedly,” Jeralynn Blueford, his mother said at a protest vigil on Friday, May 11. “The police left him there [on the streets] to die.”
On May 17, the Chronicle reported that the Oakland police chief had met with Blueford’s relatives to express condolences and clarify the process of investigating a police shooting.
The tragic events began in the early morning hours of Sunday, May 6. News reports drawn from police records say Blueford was walking on the 1900 block of 90th Avenue. According to a phone call with his dad, Blueford was waiting for “some girls in a Chrysler,” when police approached, believing he held a gun.
Police say Blueford ran down Birch Street, then pointed the gun at the police officer. The officer then shot Blueford three times in the front of his body. He died at the scene.
The initial police reports stated that Blueford shot at Masso, but it was later made public that the officer shot himself in the leg or foot, while Blueford fired no shots at all from a gun police claim to have recovered at the scene. These changing versions of events have made the family skeptical of the police account. They are also angry that Blueford was dead for many hours before the family was informed; police say he was carrying no identification, but his parents says he always carried a wallet with i.d.
While Blueford and his family live in Tracy, an hour’s drive to the east, he was attending school in Oakland, along with his cousin, Lott. He was also near his cousin-in-law, Assistant Principal Blye. He had transferred to Skyline several weeks into the 2011-12 school year as a senior.
“I’ve known him for 15 years and I was very close to him,” said Blye, whose wife is Blueford’s cousin. “I often went to his father’s house for parties and family gatherings and he helped babysit my two kids. Alan was a leader, a happy person, very athletic, and fun to be around.”
Blye said the circumstances of the young man’s death have made it even harder to process the tragedy.
“It’s a challenge anytime you lose a loved one, and it’s even harder with conflicting statements [about the shooting] but the only thing certain is that he passed away,” he said. “I’m at a loss for words of what I’m going through, but I’ve been keeping myself immersed in work.”
At the vigil for Alan on May 11, his mother Jeralynn said he played football, worked with disabled students at Skyline, and also had served food in the school cafeteria. She also spoke to The San Francisco Chronicle and mentioned he had wanted to become an X-ray technician, following an arm injury where he learned more about the profession.
“I knew Alan since he was born and he was a very good, friendly, and helpful young man,” said Rosalyn DeCuir-Gilder, Blueford’s godmother and aunt and the director of the cafeteria. “He was spiritual, loved God, and prayed daily. He was just a kid. [His death] shouldn’t have happened. I’m going to miss him at family gatherings. I’m going to miss him coming in and out hugging me.”
Such glowing endorsements were heard from many of those interviewed for this story [see box]. However, Blueford had been in trouble recently. According to his mother, as cited by the Chronicle, he had been on juvenile probation in San Joaquin County for a felony burglary incident in 2011. Because of the consequences related to these charges, he had been absent from Skyline from mid-December through March.
Despite this disruption, when he returned to school this April, teachers say he was working hard to catch up.
“He was very quiet but respectful and trying his best to graduate,” said Mr. Zapeta, who teaches Spanish. “We made a contract on how to pass my class and he passed last marking period with a C-minus. He did his work on a daily basis and turned in his work. I feel sad and terrible that this happened. He was doing what most kids do but he was trying his best.”
Mr. Ma, Blueford’s math teachers, used similar words to describe him as a student. “I’ve known Alan since October. He was in and out of my class but he was respectful and participated in class. He was a down-to-earth, good guy who I would’ve probably been friends with outside of school, too.”
The May 11th vigil was held at the OPD headquarters on 7th Street. Onlookers from nearby streets joined as they listened to speakers involved with Occupy Oakland and the Oscar Grant protests, as well as the Blueford family, talk about the police’s “constant harassment of African-Americans.”
As more and more people came, the speakers spoke more passionately, with one saying that “Alan Blueford did not deserve to die. His death will not be in vain. Pray to God, justice will be served!”
The next day, around 200 people marched from the site of the shooting to Eastmont Mall’s police station, located on 73th avenue. Chants of “Jail killer cops!” and “No justice, no peace, no racist police!” were heard throughout, said media reports.
According to the San Jose Mercury News, Alan’s cousin and Mr. Blye’s wife Tanesha Blye, said “How many young men have died and their family weren’t able to stand up?” as she cried while standing at the rally.
“He got shot because being African was a crime,” said Cephus “Uncle Bobby” Johnson, Oscar Grant’s uncle. “We need to unite together to get some changes so that justice will prevail. It feels good knowing we can do something. Power to the people!”
Another protest took place at the City Council meeting on May 15.
When asked why they were protesting, most people said that they wanted justice for African-Americans who have been targeted by the police because of their race. Many also noted that they had experienced first-hand police misconduct or had seen police harassing their loved ones because of their race. Some protesters called for jail time for Officer Masso, whose name has not been officially released by the OPD.
“He was murdered by the police while they should protect and serve instead,” said Ms. Blye. “They killed him because he was a young black man.”