Oakland criminal justice advocate and ACLU lawyer caught in gun crossfire

OAKLAND, Calif. - A self-described criminal justice advocate, ACLU attorney and one-time Oakland mayoral candidate said she and her family were caught in gun crossfire where bullets penetrated the walls of her home but luckily did not injure anyone.

"This is kind of regular for my neighborhood, to constantly hear sirens and hear a lot of commotion and chaos happening," Allyssa Victory said in an exclusive interview on Saturday. "It doesn't feel good for it to hit so close to home. I'm thankful that my family is safe."

Victory and her family, including her husband and father-in-law, were cleaning up in the kitchen at about 10:30 p.m. Friday when she heard what sounded like 10 gunshots on her block of 21st Avenue in what is known as the San Antonio neighborhood. Her teenage godson was sleeping in a bedroom.

A bullet whizzed into her dining room area. Another bullet went through her kitchen wall, exiting into a different room.

"It spread debris all over the dishes we had just washed," she said. "We were a bit rattled."

She quickly made sure her relatives were OK, inspected her home and went outside to see a large police presence on scene, within about a minute of the shooting.

Oakland police said either one or more people fired off a gun in the 2100 block of Commerce Way and one person walked into a hospital to say they had been shot. No arrests have been made.

Experiencing crime is nothing new for Victory, who was homeless for periods as a child and who has devoted her career to advocating for underserved communities, like food and clothes drives at her church and as a social justice organizer with Oakland’s Youth Together.

In her day job, Victory is a staff attorney for the Criminal Justice Program at the ACLU of Northern California, where she focuses on police reform and law enforcement accountability and oversight.

She ran for mayor in 2022 but lost to Mayor Sheng Thao.

<div>Allyssa Victory looks at a bullet hole that pierced her wall in Oakland. Photo: Khamara Victory</div>
Allyssa Victory looks at a bullet hole that pierced her wall in Oakland. Photo: Khamara Victory

Sideshows, sexual violence and shootings are regular sights and sounds in Victory's neighborhood – one she can't afford to move away from even if she wanted to.

Earlier that day, her best friend was caught in the crossfire of gunfire too, just in a different location in East Oakland.

Still, Victory has never had bullets pierce through her home while she was inside.

"It's unusual for it to hit this close to home, literally," she said. "But sadly, this is regular. It seems normalized in some ways."

In fact, years ago, her neighborhood earned the nickname, the "Murder Dubs."

"I mean, I've been witnessing crime my whole life, growing up in Oakland," Victory said.

Several conservative voices on social media chimed in that it's Victory's progressive policies that landed Oakland in a crime-zone in the first place.

"It is the leftist progressives' policies and ideology, like progressive leftist Alyssa herself, who created this horror story in Oakland," one man said on X. "The disconnect is unreal."

Michael Ray Peterson wrote on Facebook: "Wonder if this might ‘redpill’ them and get them to be ‘tough-on-crime’ advocates.

There is no hard evidence that neither progressive nor tough-on-crime policies have any effect on crime rates.

And as Victory sees it, witnessing this type of crime is part of the reason why she went into criminal justice in the first place.

"I wanted to help be an intervention, to understand criminal justice and its policies, how to make a real difference in everyday people's lives," she said. "It makes me want to double down on my efforts to do more direct work and engage with our youth, with families, by providing people with services for healing or for trauma."

<div>One of three bullet holes in Allyssa Victory's home in East Oakland. Photo: Alyssa Victory</div>
One of three bullet holes in Allyssa Victory's home in East Oakland. Photo: Alyssa Victory

There is no doubt that certain crime categories are up in Oakland.

Violent crimes rose 21% last year compared to 2022, while robberies climbed 38% and burglaries ticked up 23%. Homicides remained steady at about 120 apiece in both years. Compared to 2022, the city also saw a 45% increase in vehicle thefts.

"There's a lot of truth behind the ‘crime is happening,’ I would never deny that. It just happened last night in front of my house," she said.

But she also doesn't want to perpetuate fearmongering, where she becomes so scared of crime that she won't go out and where she thinks the answer is to simply lock people up.

"There needs to be a larger narrative that ‘this is not new,’" Victory said. "This didn't just start last year or two years ago. This neighborhood in particular has been known for high rates of violence and of crime, and there hasn't been a lot of change in that over decades."

She added: "So, some of the current things we've been doing over those decades are not working, and we're not having a real conversation about that and just pushing out the narrative that people are criminals or people should move."

As for more police?

Victory said there are always plenty of police in her neighborhood, so having more wouldn't have stopped the bullets from flying, in her opinion.

And from her perspective, Alameda County District Attorney Pamela Price is indeed charging cases that come to her with the proper evidence and policing protocols followed.

Victory noted that Price was out in her neighborhood last week doing outreach about human trafficking, telling community members about resources available to them.

As for her own life lesson, Victory said that she realizes just because she works in the criminal justice system doesn't mean that she's safe from the impacts of crime and violence.

But she hasn't lost her progressive world view, either.

"There's still usually more to people than just the crime or the violence that they are committing," she said. "And if we can intervene earlier with public services, ensure there's housing and show we have strong education systems, those are things that can help prevent crime from happening in the first place."

<div>Bullets pierce Alyssa and Khamara Victory's home in Oakland.</div>
Bullets pierce Alyssa and Khamara Victory's home in Oakland.

Lisa Fernandez is a reporter for KTVU. Email Lisa at lisa.fernandez@fox.com or call her at 510-874-0139. Or follow her on Twitter @ljfernandez