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Critically Wounded Baby's Father Isn't Talking to Police

Investigation into shooting that injured seven in West Oakland is met with silence

A man whose 1-year-old son was shot in the head Monday in West Oakland — and who was also injured in the shooting — is refusing to speak to police, investigators said Wednesday.

The child, Hiram Lawrence, whose second birthday is Dec. 28, is clinging to life at Children’s Hospital. If he dies, he will become the city’s 103rd homicide victim of the year.

His father, also named Hiram Lawrence, was one of seven people who were injured in the shooting in front of a liquor store on Willow and Seventh streets around 6 p.m. Monday. Nearly 30 people were gathered for a rap music video shoot in the parking lot of State Market Liquor store when three unidentified men wearing hooded sweatshirts rounded the corner and opened fire. Police said two men in the crowd fired back before the suspects fled.

During a news conference Tuesday, police Sgt. Randy Wingate told reporters that victims and witnesses had not been “as cooperative as we would like them to be.” The Bay Citizen learned Wednesday that the list of uncooperative witnesses includes the elder Lawrence, who was shot in the hand.

Detectives say they have approached Lawrence several times as he keeps watch over his son in the hospital. He appeared visibly upset about his son's condition, constantly looking for signs of recovery, according to police and clergy.

Lawrence did not return calls for comment, but speaking outside the hospital Wednesday afternoon, he said his son was "fighting," KTVU reported. "We gotta be here for him. Everything else is irrelevant," he said. The father has tweeted several times since the shooting. On Tuesday night, he wrote, "plz keep praying for my baby boy i need all the support in the world ...." A video posted on YouTube under the title "#TEAMHIRAM GET WELL SOON BABY" shows a montage of photos of the child set to Gospel music.

The lack of cooperation stands in stark contrast to the case of Carlos Ferndandez Nava, the toddler who was killed in a drive-by shooting in East Oakland earlier this year. The community’s outrage and the willingness of witnesses to come forward led to the arrests of two men in that case, police said.

Police working on Hiram's case have been met largely with silence. According to investigators, several people in the crowd who have declined to speak with police are members of a gang or clique that deals drugs in and around Campbell Village, a neighborhood and housing project located in the Lower Bottoms. Investigators said they do not believe the elder Lawrence was targeted in the shooting, but they said he and others likely know who was involved.

Hiram Lawrence the Younger Photo 2

When the police arrived at the liquor store, all the witnesses, victims and suspects had already left the scene, fleeing for safety and to seek treatment at area hospitals. At Highland Hospital Monday night, clergy members concerned about retaliatory shootings urged a tense crowd of nearly 50 people to remain calm. Police said the victims and most of their family members and friends at the hospital did not want to talk. Tips have come, but have not yet proven fruitful.

As the baby’s condition worsens, police and city officials, including Mayor Jean Quan and City Council member Nancy Nadel, said they hope family members will reconsider helping investigators close the case.

“There were plenty of people in that parking lot” Monday night, Quan said. "Let’s not allow this code of silence to allow more violence to happen in this city."

Federal and local agencies have provided additional officers to maintain a continuous presence in the neighborhood. Oakland police officers, city outreach workers and clergy members are talking to neighborhood residents in an effort to head off possible retaliatory shootings.

The police are offering up to $35,000 in reward money for information leading to the suspects’ arrests, and have asked anyone with information to contact the department’s tip line at 510-773-2805.

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