Reports of grenade-type devices used in West Oakland raid

Pub date April 25, 2013
WriterRebecca Bowe
SectionPolitics Blog

A high profile police raid occurred last night in multiple East Bay locations, with most activity centered at the Acorn public housing complex in West Oakland. According to recent news reports, some 150 FBI agents and support staff carried out the raid, along with 120 Oakland police officers and other law enforcement officers from San Leandro, Hayward and Antioch.

OPD Chief Howard Jordan told reporters at a press conference that the raid targeted the Acorn gang of West Oakland, and that officers made five arrests, served 16 narcotics and weapons warrants, and seized firearms, heroin, cocaine and marijuana.  

An official statement attributed to OPD spokesperson Johnna Watson in a Chronicle report suggested that police did not use force during the operation. This suggests OPD does not consider deploying grenade-type devices (considered to be “less lethal weapons”) to be “use of force,” because residents living nearby the Acorn housing complex at Eighth and Adeline streets told the Guardian that they heard loud bangs, probably from flash grenades, go off when the operation was underway around 7:30 Wednesday night.

A neighbor who lives nearby the apartment complex, who asked not to be identified, had a partial view of the police activity from their West Oakland residence. The person described the operation as “like a military presence” due to the sheer number of officers, many outfitted in SWAT gear, and “very precise,” targeting a specific address and lasting roughly an hour and 15 minutes. The streets surrounding the apartment complex were closed off for the duration of the raid.

The neighbor estimated that the flash grenades (or similar devices) were used five times, but since the explosions produce echoes, there could have been fewer deployments. The observer wasn’t able to see how they were used because there wasn’t a clear view of the unit, but heard the bangs in sequence. An OPD officer could be heard addressing occupants inside one of the units on a loudspeaker, reading out the address, telling them they were surrounded, and then saying something like, “you in the suit, get down, get down on the ground.”

The neighbor said they observed three people being removed from the unit and taken into custody – a man who was wearing a suit, a person in a motorized wheelchair, and a tall, younger-looking man. The arrestees were cooperative. 

The West Oakland resident also reported seeing an armored vehicle parked at the scene. A host of official OPD vehicles were parked along the street, along with unmarked cars including SUVs and white vans. 

More details about the massive police operation, the targeted gang, and the criminal activity the cops zeroed in on are sure to come out. A lot of outstanding questions remain, of course, including why officers decided to use the grenade-type devices. So far, OPD hasn’t responded to our email or voice message, but we’ll post the department’s response if we receive one.