A 60-year-old woman is shot and nearly killed by young drug dealers.
Just past midnight on January 1, 1990, paramedics and police in East Palo Alto, California, responded to a 911 call. A 60-year-old woman had been shot in the stomach after unknown gunmen had fired 35 rounds of ammunition into her house and car. The victim was C.W. Roddy, a retired phone company employee who had lived in the area with her son for 23 years.
The attack was the culmination of a three-year campaign of terror against C.W. by a group of young drug dealers. Their customers were often affluent residents from the surrounding communities. Darnell Roddy is C.W.’s son:
C.W. decided it was time to take action. The first confrontation came when teenage drug dealers parked their cars in front of her house. When they refused to move, C.W. told them she would report their license plate number to the police. C.W. frequently reported the young traffickers, but the under-staffed local police could not handle the enormous problem. According to C.W.:
In February of 1988, C.W. was physically threatened as she walked down the street. According to C.W., a young man said he was going to blow up her house:
C.W. went over to the police officer and told him about the threat. The officer asked C.W. if she would like to make a citizen’s arrest, and she said yes. C.W. said that the officer took the offender away, but that he was back within a matter of minutes.
Things only got worse over the next eighteen months. During certain hours of the day, the streets resembled a rush hour traffic jam. During off hours, the dealers used C.W.’s front curb as their personal parking lot.
In October of 1989, C.W. again asked the dealers to move their car away from her home. C.W. said that the confrontation suddenly turned violent when one of the dealers struck her in the face. Then he threatened to beat her with a piece of wood. According to C.W.:
Two months later, in December 1989, C.W. was involved in another confrontation. Chris Thomas, a new neighbor, was attacked with a knife when he came to her defense:
Police arrested the young man who had attacked the neighbor. For the next ten days, things were quiet. Then came New Year’s Eve. According to Chief Dan Nelson of the East Palo Alto Police Department:
At midnight, C.W. said she was awakened by the gunfire:
C.W.’s home was sprayed with automatic gunfire, shattering her living room windows. C.W.’s son, Darnell, was also home at the time:
C.W. had been shot in the stomach. Her son immediately called for help and the police arrived within minutes. C.W. thinks the attack was planned and that the assailants were trying to kill them. Police recovered shell casings from three weapons: a .38 revolver, a .380 semi-automatic pistol, and an assault weapon, which was possibly an Uzi.
After their initial investigation, the police called in the FBI. According to Special Agent William E. Smith of the San Jose, California, FBI:
To date, no suspects have been identified. But even though the case remains unsolved, the attack has rallied the neighborhood. A group of mothers took charge of the local park and drove out the drug dealers. They were successful, but they know it is only the first step on a long road. C.W. said that she is hopeful:
Neighborhood residents are still hoping that C.W.’s attackers can be brought to justice.