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In a city where shooting is routine, residents unruffled by gunfire

on November 17, 2009

Shots rang out just after lunch—a fusillade of disorienting blasts that made patrons at a Mexican deli dive for cover.

Witnesses said a shooter in a car on 23rd Street opened fire at another car. Both cars then sped off.
Workers at other local businesses on bustling 23rd Street were rattled for minutes, not hours, on this mid-September day.

Seconds after the small-arms fire ceased, people milled about the sidewalks to survey the aftermath, briefly recount what just happened, who was where, etc. For three student reporters coincidentally on scene, stunned disbelief quickly morphed into a scramble to ask questions and take video of shell casings.

Police block traffic to investigate a car-to-car shooting on 23rd Street.

Police block traffic to investigate a car-to-car shooting on 23rd Street.

In a city routinely ranked as one of the nation’s most violent, spates of gunfire are all too familiar. (See related story on frequency of local gunfire.)

“We have gunfire in this city virtually every day,” said Devone Boggan, director of the city’s Office of Neighborhood Safety, an organization founded in 2007 as another tool to combat the city’s persistent violence. “All too often, it hits somebody’s flesh.”

But on that September day, there were no human casualties.

One automobile was not so lucky.

Minutes after the incident, a man parked his SUV and bolted out the door and onto the sidewalk. He was agitated, saying that he was inadvertently caught in the crossfire.

A quarter-sized bullet hole in his driver-side door corroborated his account.

Leland Johnson, a patron at Pepito’s Deli who had been affably chatting about his favorite restaurant, belly-flopped onto the concrete when the shots burst out.

Shaken, he left without his meal after the gunfire stopped.

All that was left was the lingering aroma of gunpowder. That and the shell casings strewn across 23rd Street, nudged to and fro by steady traffic.


  1. jt on November 17, 2009 at 8:34 am

    Why do I feel like I am reading fiction? No offense to the writer, but that isnt journalism. I love this site too. Note to editor: please get a better intern to write. If I want to read creative writing, I will go to Barnes n Noble.

  2. Robert Rogers on November 17, 2009 at 5:07 pm

    I’ll not bore anyone further by detailing the different forms, styles and perspectives that journalism takes, nor will I take more than a second in alerting readers to the video images that sit directly above this short story. As the images unquestionably confirm, this is no piece of fiction.

    Please continue to read and comment. Hopefully future articles will be more to your liking.


  3. Nikki Smith on November 18, 2009 at 7:51 am

    This is a decent piece. For an intern. 🙂 Perhaps it could have benefited from more direct quotes or paraphrased witness testimony?

    The reporter was there when this happened. Usually the reporter comes along after the fact to put the pieces together. I think that’s why this piece reads more like “fiction” as the first comment suggests.

    I would argue that if you feel like you’re reading fiction, then the reporter is doing a great job of telling the story. More input from other witnesses may help to remove the writer from the scene.

    Keep on truckin!

  4. Robert Rogers on November 18, 2009 at 1:17 pm


    Thanks very much for reading and responding.

    At Richmond Confidential, we are experimenting with fresh approaches to storytelling. In this case, for instance, the aim is for the multimedia elements to work together in a symbiotic way, with the direct quotes, etc., provided in the video element, while the text element is an unorthodox recap that glimpses aspects not captured in the visuals or audio.

    At least those were the aims here.

    I wish to provide some insight into our methods and intent as a way of being as transparent, open and engaging to our growing readership as possible. We think these are the kinds of innovations that traditional media must make. We hope, through effort and experimentation, to continue to advance beyond traditional storytelling conventions.

    Whether our efforts are effective is a determination, of course, left ultimately up to you, the readers/viewers.

    Thanks again,

  5. jt on November 18, 2009 at 1:56 pm

    I’d like the news. I like “creative writing” in my editorials, exposes and novels. I enjoy reading the deatils, quotes and it helps to get a feel for the situation, but I alos do not want to have to google words in order to read a “news” article. If I offended the author, I apologize. I do think the author should not reply to reader’s comments, but rather read and either apply the thoughts or ignore. It is just my opinion.


  6. Robert Rogers on November 18, 2009 at 5:03 pm


    No offense taken. Thanks again for taking the time to read, write and generally engage with us here at Richmond Confidential. It is appreciated.

    Thank you,

  7. Felix on November 19, 2009 at 1:41 pm

    I think this article reads just fine. I’m a Richmond resident and I appreciate any coverage we’re given. The so-called “creative writing”, combined with the video footage, helps paint a complete picture of what happened. I noticed this site also links to the West County Times, so I see this as a partnership that will only benefit Richmond residents.

  8. Robert Rogers on November 19, 2009 at 4:25 pm


    Thank you for reading and providing a resident’s perspective.

    At its core, this is a service-learning project meant to benefit the community of Richmond and the field of journalism.

    Thanks again. Your input is appreciated.


  9. Lee Doolan on November 21, 2009 at 4:38 pm

    “…a bullet hole the size of a quarter…” come on now. That would be like a .93 caliber (25mm) slug.

  10. Robert Rogers on November 22, 2009 at 10:30 am


    You can see for yourself how big the hole is at 1:07, among other frames during the video.

    My estimate was a quarter. Maybe it was a tad smaller. That’s possible.

    Thanks for reading and responding!


  11. mich sy on November 27, 2009 at 5:50 pm

    I realize this online magazine is a service learning project. However, I dont know if any of the writers live in Richmond.
    This article should state “The Iron Triangle area(s) of Richmond” and not make a blanket statement that “Richmond” is all too used to gunfire and guns. I believe it is responsible journalism that should be your primary goal, and not articulating the specifics (and condemning all of the city of Richmond as being violent) is injustice and a mischaracterization of the entire city.
    Im talking about family-friendly Richmond Heights, exclusive Point Richmond, and
    scenic Marina Bay neighborhoods….
    Please give us a break!

  12. Robert Rogers on November 30, 2009 at 11:14 am

    Thanks for reading and commenting.

    I will say that there is an argument to be made for speaking of Richmond as a single unit, ie. a city, that struggles with problems such as violent crime. I’m not sure whether it’s a good idea to suggest that these problems are those of some communities within the city and not others. While residents in some neighborhoods may fear violent crime less, their tax dollars and elected leaders are engaged with these problems.

    Dozens of homicides have occurred outside the Iron Triangle this year.

    We will continue to strive to be responsible, specific journalists. Thank you.


  13. Tony Suggs on December 2, 2009 at 3:47 pm

    After finding out about this site, I make an effort to check it a couple of times a week.

    I dropped the COCO Times due to its politically biased reporting and editorializing. So it is refreshing to see, or better yet read, news without a opinion. Just the facts.

    It is also very gratifying to read stories where the reporter has a very good grasp of the english language. In other words, they have a expanded vocabulary.

    Our schools have dumbed down education so much, that our citizens are barely literate and can only speak with the equivalent of a 10th grade education.

    Keep up the good work and please do not watch television news reporting, it will ruin you!

  14. Charles Hondo on December 27, 2009 at 6:58 am

    Thanks for the report and doing something the nobody else is doing for the Richmond residents who care. As somebody posted earlier, the world needs to de-glamorize the gangster life and show these guys as the dead end dummies they really are.

Richmond Confidential welcomes comments from our readers, but we ask users to keep all discussion civil and on-topic. Comments post automatically without review from our staff, but we reserve the right to delete material that is libelous, a personal attack, or spam. We request that commenters consistently use the same login name. Comments from the same user posted under multiple aliases may be deleted. Richmond Confidential assumes no liability for comments posted to the site and no endorsement is implied; commenters are solely responsible for their own content.

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Richmond Confidential is an online news service produced by the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism for, and about, the people of Richmond, California. Our goal is to produce professional and engaging journalism that is useful for the citizens of the city.

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