What would you do if you found a duffel bag buried in your backyard containing an assault rifle, shotgun shells, a black ski mask, black gloves and a towel?
Would you call the cops? And if you did, what would you do if they came out and told you “the gang isn’t going to like this.” And then what would you do, if, after spending the weekend at a friend’s house, too terrified to come home, you did come home, and found four young men in your front yard, asking “What did you do with the guns?”
You’re so scared you go with the truth and tell them, “I called the police. I didn’t know what to do. I’m sorry.”
The men then give you a week to come up with $800, and when you say you don’t have it, they say “Bitches get killed for that. Bitches get tortured for that.”
What would you do?
This is exactly what happened to 30 year old Mercy Vanaman, who lives – or lived – in West Oakland, California. She discovered the buried bag while gardening around the tobacco tree in the backyard of the home she shares with five house mates.
After the police left, she posted a note on her fb page: “Shaking like a leaf…absolutely terrified…need a hug.” After the gang members’ threat, she added another post: “Does anyone have an extra $800 lying around?”
When the police couldn’t help – there’s simply no money in OPD’s budget for 24 hour surveillance – Vanaman and her housemates fled. What happened to her wasn’t considered severe enough to qualify for state or federal witness protection programs. “As much as I’d like to be there for what Mercy needs, we just don’t have the resources right now,” said Officer Sekue Millington, an officer familiar with the case.
In Oakland neighborhoods like Vanaman’s, witness intimidation is on the rise, from a low of five people being charged with witness intimidation in 2004, to 44 people being charged last year.
In November, an Oakland jury convicted Gumaro Baez of murder and dissuading a witness after he shot two men in a car, then executed two young girls in the back seat – because of what they had just seen him do.
In a letter, Baez later wrote, “If the broads were still alive, it would’ve really been over. Everybody knows you can’t leave witnesses.” I don’t know what his punishment was, but thank God Baez was stupid enough to write that letter.
Sergeant Mike Gantt, recalling some of the shit he’s seen, told a reporter “I’ve seen people get maimed; lost an eye; paralyzed; their parents got beat up; houses robbed; families beat up; and, worst case, murder.”
Vanaman is still in hiding. She’s come back to her home once, with police escort, to pick up her most valuable things.
I thought “snitches get stitches” only applied to thugs going after other thugs.
Not innocent people like Vanaman. So much for honor among dirtbags.