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A Survivor’s Plea: Preventing Nights Out from Turning into Nightmares in Oakland

Home / A Survivor’s Plea: Preventing Nights Out from Turning into Nightmares in Oakland

By: Cameron McFadden

As a survivor of gun violence in Oakland, I bear the physical and emotional scars of a night that irrevocably changed my life. What started as a typical evening out with friends quickly descended into unimaginable horror when shots rang out. In an instant, the festive mood shattered. I found myself lying on the pavement, a bullet lodged in my body, searing pain tearing through me as I wondered if I would survive.

Cameron McFadden - Man wearing a dark suit jacket and light blue, collared dress shirt, standing and smiling, facing the camera.

Cameron McFadden

The impact of gun violence on survivors extends far beyond the physical wounds. PTSD strikes at any loud noise, anxiety grips me in crowded places, and the relentless need for pain medication persists. This psychological trauma divides life into “before” and “after.” In the “after,” I exist in a constant state of hyper-vigilance, with every outing clouded by the fear of another shooting. The reverberations of gun violence cripple the human spirit long after the physical scars have faded.

I implore the public to understand that gun violence is not just a statistic; it leaves real people like me permanently shattered. In Oakland, violent crime increased in 2023, and just days ago, 15 people were shot at a Juneteenth celebration. These aren’t mere numbers—they represent lives forever altered, families devastated, and communities living in fear.

A critical intervention is the use of technology like ShotSpotter, an acoustic gunshot detection system that can detect gunfire and rapidly direct law enforcement to the scene, potentially saving lives. When I was shot in Oakland, ShotSpotter wasn’t in use. My survival came down to pure chance – my cousin happened to find me and rushed me to the hospital in their car. Without that stroke of luck, I might not be here today.

This is where technology like ShotSpotter becomes crucial. It doesn’t rely on chance or the availability of a Good Samaritan. Instead, it provides consistent, rapid response to gunfire incidents. Had ShotSpotter been in place where I was shot, authorities might have responded more quickly, potentially saving me from some of the trauma I endured.

Today, ShotSpotter is helping to prevent stories like mine from becoming all too common in Oakland. According to recent data, ShotSpotter detected 8,317 gunfire alerts in Oakland in 2023 alone, representing 35,035 rounds fired. Shockingly, 99% of these incidents had no corresponding 911 calls within 15 minutes of the gunfire. This underscores the critical role ShotSpotter plays in alerting authorities to gun violence that would otherwise go unreported.

Underreporting is alarmingly common. In cities across the country, studies suggest that 80-90% of gunfire incidents go unreported to police. Some people fear retaliation. Others may not be certain they heard gunshots. Many assume someone else has already called. A significant number feel resigned to living in communities where gun violence is commonplace.

I’ve experienced the fear of retaliation firsthand. During my recovery, I woke up in my hospital room to hear the voice of one of the shooters talking to a nurse outside. That visit conveyed a chilling message: I could never talk to police without risking further harm to myself or my loved ones. This terrifying reality is just one facet of the complex issues surrounding gun violence reporting, but you wouldn’t fully grasp its impact unless you’ve experienced being a victim of gun crime yourself.

Injured man in hospital bed with bandages and monitors (Cameron McFadden) after being the victim of a shooting in Oakland, California.

Cameron McFadden in an Oakland hospital being treated for gunshot wounds.

ShotSpotter bridges this gap by alerting authorities to gunfire incidents without relying on human witnesses. In 2020 alone, 101 gunshot wound victims in Oakland were located by police thanks to ShotSpotter alerts in cases where there was no corresponding 911 call. These are lives that might otherwise have been lost.

Gun violence is a vicious cycle, with each incident perpetuating overwhelming fear that paralyzes neighborhoods and prevents normal living. But technology like ShotSpotter, when used as part of a comprehensive gun crime response strategy, is helping break that cycle by addressing gunfire swiftly and effectively. With this tool in place, we’re not waiting for the next headline or the next tragedy—we’re actively working to stop violence before it spirals.

My experience has irrevocably changed me, but I am determined to use my voice to prevent others from enduring the same unending emotional turmoil. ShotSpotter and similar public safety technologies are our pathways to making America’s streets and gatherings safe again. They are the urgent solutions my fellow survivors and I have been calling for.

Whether it’s an evening downtown, an outdoor festival, or just an afternoon stroll through the neighborhood—no one should live in fear of gunfire. We owe it to those who have already lost their lives and those who have been forever scarred – both physically and emotionally – to stem this unnecessary violence through the tools at our disposal today.

I speak from a place of searing personal pain when I implore our leaders to prioritize and continue the use of gunshot detection in Oakland. As the city considers renewing its contract with ShotSpotter, we must recognize the vital role this technology plays in saving lives through faster response times and helping police gather critical evidence. If ShotSpotter is removed from Oakland, victims of gun violence may not be found in time to save them, and my story could become that of many others—except they might not be so lucky. People will die.

Let my story’s devastation be the catalyst for maintaining and enhancing this crucial technology, ensuring no other night of joyous celebration turns into a tragic nightmare. The time to act is now—before more dreams are destroyed by the scourge of gun violence. ShotSpotter is a critical part of the solution, and its continued use should be a top priority today.

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