Family came from Yemen seeking asylum from war
San Francisco Chronicle
Apr. 18–Oakland police are investigating as homicides the deaths of an Oakland man and his 1-year-old daughter in a house fire early Saturday, and said the suspected arson could be the latest in a string of crimes in the city that may be related.
Police and fire officials responded to a fire at a three-story house on the 9500 block of Stearns Avenue shortly after midnight. Officials said several people and children were trapped inside the building.
Oakland firefighters extinguished the fire and found a 37-year-old man and his infant daughter dead inside the home. Police said two other family members suffered injuries and were transported to local hospitals for medical treatment.
Officials said a preliminary investigation determined that the fire was intentionally set. They have not released the victims’ names.
Mohammed Alsamma, 25, who identified himself as the cousin of the deceased man, stood in the driveway of the gutted house, which was wrapped in caution tape Saturday afternoon. He told reporters that he was at work as a security guard when he got a call about a fire at his residence.
Seven people were at the home at the time of the fire, Alsamma said, but nine or 10 total lived in the Oakland home, which is at the edge of Interstate 580 near Bishop O’Dowd High School.
Holding his burned and tattered wedding suit, still in a clothier bag, Alsamma told reporters that he came to the United States from Yemen and had asked the federal government for asylum from war.
“I thought we were gonna be safe here, but death is following us everywhere,” Alsamma said.
Investigators believe the incident may be connected to a string of crimes in the area that include shootings, a homicide and a separate intentional commercial fire.
The crimes started with an April 10 shooting at a liquor store on the 1900 block of 90th Avenue. Police found a man there, identified by police as Dejoh Woods, 25, of Oakland, dead from gunshot wounds shortly before 9 p.m. that Saturday.
Four days later, at around 11 p.m. April 14, Oakland firefighters responded to a structure fire at the same building. Arson investigators believe the fire was set intentionally. No injuries were reported.
A day after the fire, on Thursday, authorities said a man believed to be connected to last Sunday’s fatal shooting turned himself in to Oakland police. The man was arrested, and the case was forwarded to the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office for review.
The next night, the home on Stearns Avenue was set ablaze.
Anyone with information about the incidents is asked to contact the Oakland Police Department Homicide Section at (510) 238-3821 or the Tip Line at (510) 238-7950.
The Oakland Police Department and Crime Stoppers of Oakland are offering rewards for information in any of the homicide cases and up to $40,000 for information leading to an arrest in Saturday’s incident. Anyone with information is asked to contact the Crime Stoppers of Oakland Tip Line at (510) 777-8572.
Vanessa Arredondo, Rachel Swan and Lauren Hernandez are San Francisco Chronicle staff writers. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: @v_anana, @rachelswan, @ByLHernandez
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