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A reputed Oakland gang member was ordered today to stand trial on two counts of murder and five counts of attempted murder for a shooting at a restaurant near Jack London Square last April that left two people dead and five people wounded. At the end of a hearing that spanned three days, Alameda County Superior Court Judge Jon Rolefson said prosecutors also produced sufficient evidence to have 23-year-old Clem Thompkins stand trial for acting to benefit a criminal street gang, using a firearm to cause deaths and great bodily injuries and five street terrorism clauses. Thompkins could face life in prison if he’s convicted of the charges against him.
William Jenkins, 27, of Oakland and 22-year-old Adam Williams of San Leandro were killed in the shooting at Sweet Jimmie’s at 311 Broadway at 12:42 a.m. on April 25. Both were fathers of young children and Williams was an after-school teacher’s aide at Peralta Elementary in Oakland. Five other people were wounded in the shooting but survived. Oakland police said they believe the shooting was gang-related and they don’t think any of the seven victims were the intended targets of the shooting.
Oakland police gang expert Steve Valle testified last week that Thompkins belongs to the Lower Bottom Gang in West Oakland and an investigation indicates that Thompkins carried out the shooting because members of the rival Acorn Gang flashed gang signs at Thompkins and his gang associates shortly before the shooting at Sweet Jimmie’s. Lt. Tony Jones testified today that an associate of Thompkins told police that the initial confrontation between the two gangs occurred at Nation’s Giant Hamburgers, which is near Sweet Jimmie’s and is located at 317 Broadway, when an Acorn Gang member flashed a gun.
Thompkins and his Lower Bottoms associates then drove to East Oakland to get a gun, Jones said. According to Jones, the associate of Thompkins who spoke to police said several of his associates got into an argument with people inside the entrance of Sweet Jimmie’s a short time later and then Thompkins came into the restaurant and “started firing.” Jones said Thompkins’ associate was reluctant to talk to police and “was concerned about his safety” because he feared retribution from his fellow gang members.
Prosecutor Ben Beltramo called the associate to the witness stand three times during Thompkins’ hearing but the associate refused to talk about the shooting all three times. Valle testified that in his extensive experience of investigating Oakland gangs, he’s learned that when gang members carry out shootings “they are not always concerned if they get their target” and the result is that there are many innocent victims of gang feuds.
Gang members carry out shootings “to increase shock value and to make it known that they are in a gang that’s not to be messed with,” Jones said. He said that in the case of the shooting at Sweet Jimmie’s, it appears that Thompkins and his Lower Bottoms associates felt “disrespected” by the Acorn members they clashed with and wanted “an immediate response by retaliation.”
Valle said Thompkins “self-admitted more than once” to jail officials that he’s a Lower Bottoms member when he was arrested for previous crimes. But Thompkins’ lawyer, Dionne Choyce, disputed Valle’s assertion that Thompkins is a gang member. Choyce said not all young black men in West Oakland are gang members and the fact that Thompkins lived in the area where the Lower Bottoms Gang operates doesn’t prove that he belongs to the group.
Choyce said Thompkins went to McClymonds High School in West Oakland for four years, was a safety on its football team and was one of best players. Choyce said Thompkins was a professional skateboarder at one point, was accepted into a leadership excellence academy in West Oakland and had a job at the time of the shooting.
Such a background would be unusual for a gang member, Choyce suggested. Valle said that although Thompkins played on the football team at McClymonds, he was once arrested at the school for carrying a firearm. Thompkins is scheduled to return to court at the end of the month to have a trial date set.
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