OAKLAND-Police are investigating a fatal shooting just outside the Occupy Oakland encampment in Northern California and the apparent suicide of a military veteran at an Occupy encampment in Vermont’s largest city.
The Oakland killing is further straining relations between local officials and anti-Wall Street protesters. A preliminary investigation into the gunfire Thursday that left a man dead suggests it resulted from a fight between two groups of men at or near the camp on a plaza in front of Oakland’s city hall, police Chief Howard Jordan said.
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Investigators do not yet know if the men in the fight were associated with Occupy Oakland, but they are looking into reports that some protest participants tried to break up the altercation, Jordan said.
With opinions about the ongoing demonstration and its effect on the city becoming more divided in recent days, supporters and opponents immediately reacted to the homicide the city’s 101st this year.
Camp organizers said the attack was unrelated to their activities, while city and business leaders cited the death as proof that the camp itself either bred crime or drained law enforcement resources.
Mayor Jean Quan, who has been criticized by residents on both sides for issuing mixed signals about the local government’s willingness to tolerate the camp, issued a statement Thursday calling for the camp to shut down.
“Tonight’s incident underscores the reason why the encampment must end. The risks are too great,” Quan said. “We need to return (police) resources to addressing violence throughout the city. It’s time for the encampment to end. Camping is a tactic, not a solution.”
For their part, protest leaders said the shooting involved outsiders and was only connected to their ongoing protest of US financial institutions to the extent that poverty breeds violence.
In an unrelated incident in Vermont, police said preliminary investigations show a 35-year-old military veteran fatally shot himself in the head Thursday at an Occupy Wall Street encampment. The name of the man is being withheld because not all of his family has been notified.
He shot himself inside a tent in City Hall Park. Mike Noble, a spokesman for the Fletcher Allen Health Care hospital in Burlington, confirmed that the man had died. Noble said he could provide no other details.
Deputy Chief Andi Higbee told reporters the shooting raised questions about whether the protest would be allowed to continue.
“Our responsibility is to keep the public safe. When there is a discharge of a firearm in a public place like this it’s good cause to be concerned, greatly concerned,” Higbee said.