There has always been a feeling that published reports of the death of U’Kendra Johnson have not told the entire story. There is little doubt that a car driven by Oakland resident Eric Crawford went through a stopsign at Avenal and Seminary, hitting the car in which Johnson was a passenger. However, other details from that night are either nonexistent, sketchy, or contradictory.

The sideshow was supposed to have taken place at the corner of 61st Street and Foothill Boulevard. According to a February 17th Tribune article, the police said that Crawford sped away from the sideshow at a high rate of speed. Later, OPD Public Information Officer George Phillips said that police officers did not chase Crawford. However, witnesses have contradicted that assertion, saying that at least one OPD car chased Crawford for several blocks away from the sideshow, through stopsigns and residential streets, without siren or flashing lights.

There is another problem with the official story. The Tribune quoted police as saying that Zakiya Carroll, the driver of the car in which Johnson was a passenger, "stopped to watch the sideshow activities, [but] when ‘things started to get crazy’ at Foothill and Seminary, they decided to go home, and were hit by [Crawford’s car]." This was what led many people to erroneously believe that U’Kendra Johnson had been killed at a sideshow, since the accident appeared to involve both a sideshow participant and sideshow spectators.

The problem is, Carroll’s car was hit while she was driving up Seminary from the direction of International, towards Foothill. In other words, she was driving in the direction of the sideshow, rather than away from it. That doesn’t necessarily mean that Carroll and Johnson were going to the sideshow, nor does it necessarily mean that they hadn’t been there sometime earlier. It only means that the official story has a hole in it, a part where the conclusion doesn’t quite fit the facts.

There was another statement in that February 17th Tribune article that sort of stuck out there: "Police said some of the same people cheering Crawford while he was doing the donuts [at 61st and Foothill] were also at the site of the collision, ‘whooping and hollering’ and filming the frantic scene. ‘They thought it was a big joke,’ [a police spokesperson] said."

I’ve seen a lot of auto accidents in Oakland, seen some violence, too. I’ve never seen Oaklanders "whoop and holler" at an auto accident where there is serious injury. And while youngsters will often egg on a fistfight, the scene supposedly described by the police officer, with people jumping up and down and laughing while a young woman lay dead or dying in a horribly mangled car, seems surreal, almost urban legend-like. Which officers witnessed this, and did it get into their official reports?

Further, if police know of people who were present at both the sideshow and the accident scene, did the police take witness statements from these individuals?

There have been other witness statements from the accident night…never published…that are disturbing in other ways. One is that when OPD officers came upon the accident scene, they saw Crawford exit his car and flee on foot down Avenal, away from Seminary. Instead of stopping at Carroll’s car to give aid to the two young women inside, witnesses say that the officers ran up the street in pursuit of Crawford. Crawford was later charged…presumably by these same officers…with leaving the scene of an accident without stopping to give aid to the victims.

To clear up the contradictions, I asked the Oakland Police Department to turn over copies of both the police reports and the radio transmissions that were done the night of the accident, both for the accident itself, and for the sideshow they say preceded it. Sometimes such reports are released to the press. Sometimes not. This time, not. OPD refused through the City Attorney’s Office, citing state law. State law says that they don’t have to turn over such reports. But it doesn’t say that they can’t.

In any event, I’ve asked for an official summary of the events of February 15th, which the police are supposed to be required to provide.

I’ll let you know what they say.

Originally Published April 17, 2002 in URBANVIEW Newspaper, Oakland, CA