OAKLAND, Calif. - As the community mourns the tragic death of a nearly 2-year-old boy, killed by a stray bullet on Interstate 880 in Oakland, the California Highway Patrol offered even more sobering statistics: There have been 76 freeway shootings in Alameda County in the last 12 months.
Most have been concentrated along the East Bay stretches of interstates 880 and 580. That's about six shootings a month; more than one a week.
The CHP was not immediately available to provide a map of exactly where the gunfire erupted or compile the number of people they have arrested in regards to the freeway shootings in 2021. The CHP also didn't provide locations for those shootings, but a spokesman on Tuesday said the agency was in the process of compiling them. Also, the Alameda County District Attorney does track how many freeway shooting cases they charge or get convictions for each year.
Jasper Wu, 23 months old, was just one of those shooting victims and whoever killed him has not yet been caught.
The little boy was driving with his mother and two other children in a white Lexus from San Francisco to his home in Fremont on Saturday afternoon about 2 p.m., when he was struck by gunfire on the freeway near Filbert Street, the California Highway Patrol said.
The toddler, seen in photos wearing a Superman costume and blowing a dandelion, was sleeping in the car when it happened.
The evidence suggests he and his family were not targeted but got caught in the crossfire between two cars with people exchanging gunfire, officials said. The CHP said it had no other information and urged anyone who may have witnessed the shooting to contact them.
Jasper Wu, 23 months. Photo: Courtesy of Carl Chan
At a news conference on Monday, CHP Capt. Mike Lehman tried to explain what's going on.
"Many of these freeway shootings are random acts," he said. But other shootings take place between parties that know each other, or because of a road rage incident. The public should feel safe on the freeways. That’s part of the California Highway Patrol’s mission."
He also tried to address how people might be feeling driving on Bay Area highways.
"It is scary," he said. "The reason you should feel safe is that the chance of this happening is not high. We're taking action on each and every one of these incidents to prevent a recurrence."
Alameda County Supervisor Keith Carson it can be challenging to prevent freeway shootings.
"You can't be at every place at the same time," he said. But it takes that kind of comprehensive communication network to approach these kinds of things, not knowing when they're going to take place, not knowing how to actually prevent them."
Though the chance of getting shot at on a freeway isn't high, it does occur. KTVU compiled a list of some of the shootings over the last year.
- In May, someone had fired 70 bullets 70 bullets at a party bus filled with teenage girls and young women off Interstate 580 in Oakland near Foothill Boulevard at 68th Avenue, killing two and injuring multiple people.
- In June, Fremont police investigated a freeway shooting that led to a multi-car crash on I-880. The driver of a red Toyota pickup truck said he was driving south when he saw the driver of a black Kia driving erratically. Then he said someone inside the Kia started shooting at him. A bullet pierced his truck.
- In July, a husband and wife were shot at while driving on Interstate 580 near Golf Links Road. The couple told KTVU that a car pulled up behind them and started firing. Four bullets hit the car, and a fifth went through the back windshield, missing the wife by just inches.
- In September, a shooting between drivers of two vehicles on eastbound Highway 24, near the Caldecott Tunnel, led to massive traffic delays. A car sustained multiple bullet holes, but there were no reported injuries.
- In October, Monnie Price Jr. died on westbound I-580 near the 98th Avenue on-ramp in Oakland when someone shot into his white, four-door sedan. The CHP have yet to announce any arrests in that case.
Highway shootings are difficult to investigate because witnesses are traveling at high rates of speed and collecting evidence can be challenging, said Mary Knox, senior deputy district attorney for neighboring Contra Costa County.
Knox said Contra Costa County saw a spike in recent years in gun violence tied to gangs on segments of Highway 4 and Interstate 80. That led officials to install a surveillance system of cameras and license plate readers that she said significantly reduced gun violence on freeways there.
According to the District Attorney's Office, the ShotSpotter gunshot detection system picked up 220 confirmed gunshot notifications in three areas on or very near state highways since 2019: One segment in Antioch had 139 notifications, another in Pittsburg had 53 notification, and the third area in the Richmond/San Pablo had 28 notifications. There was no information provided on how many people were arrested, charged or convicted following these freeway shootings.
"Gang members were actually following each other up onto the freeways to do the shootings because they knew how challenging those investigations are," Knox said. "Witnesses are traveling at like 65 miles an hour so they’re miles down the freeway by the time we even know we have a crime and finding the exact shooting location to recover casings and things was very challenging."
Knox said preventing innocent bystanders from getting caught in the crossfire was exactly why officials wanted to set up the freeway security system.
"It was just so crucial to get our program up and running before a tragedy like this happened," Knox said.
IF YOU'RE INTERESTED: The Oakland Chinatown Chamber of Commerce has set up a GoFundMe to raise $25,000 to help with funeral expenses for Jasper. It's the only account authorized by the family.
If anyone has information, the CHP is urging public members help provide investigative leads to detectives by calling the Golden Gate Division Investigative Tip-Line at (707) 917-4491.
KTVU's Allie Rasmus, Henry Lee and the Associated Press contributed to this report.