If you’re not outraged, you haven’t been paying attention!

Alameda City Council Meeting: TODAY, Tuesday, June 7, 7 PM

Agenda item: City Manager’s discussion of The Crown Beach Event, aka The Zack Assisted Suicide

Meeting Location: Second Floor, City Hall, 2263 Santa Clara Avenue, Alameda

I hope you’ve seen the TV news keeping the heat on city hall:  KTVU Channel 2, ABC and NBC Bay Area. Last night’s 10 O’Clock news segment on Alameda is here.

I’ve been conducting a lot of research on this.  If you think we should not be outraged, email me; let’s talk: raisinghellforgood@gmail.com

The AFD is lying about budget cuts–there were none (read below for details) and hiding behind protocols. It’s wrong. Worse, their failure to perform was lethal to one of our own, to someone they are sworn to protect and save. Like their failed responses to the 2009 FISC fire and the 2010 Crude Oil Transfer & Spill, these response failures caused further harm to us rather than protecting us! Unless we, en masse, demand better of our city, nothing will change. Please come to tonight’s meeting and bring everyone you know!

We cannot continue our mute tolerance of this! We are each of us at risk! Come to City Hall tonight and help change this with a show of force!

Still not convinced?  Keep reading…

 THE ZACK EVENT BRIEF – I’m not an expert, but here are my thoughts, what I’ve discovered, what I think, and why I’m so outraged…

The guy was intent on killing himself…why not just let the guy do what he wanted to do?  

Oakland firefighters have seen a lot of suicides, and they tell me that someone intent on suicide goes to a private location and simply gets ‘er done.  Someone despondent and crying out for help, goes to a public place and expects people to negate their suicidal thoughts, not confirm them.  Mr. Zack walked out into the water, telling the kite-boarder who circled him that he just wanted to pray.  He stood out there for 1.5 hours.  Every time he looked back, no one was coming out to even talk with him. No one cared.  The City of Alameda’s first responders charged with risking their lives to save ours–and paid quite handsomely to do so I might add!–, just stood there, confirming the worst for Mr. Zack.  After 30 minutes in 60 degree water, the body starts to get too cold, then starts to get weak. Given that there was no response from the AFD and the APD, and that no Good Samaritan came out either (pretty much assuming the people on the beach in uniform were doing something!), Mr. Zack really had no choice but to die.  As a city, we are culpable for this unimaginable event.

The AFD had no choice: their hands were tied… Did budget cuts prevent them from getting water swimmer training and from having a Water Rescue Program? No!

A March 2009 Alameda Fire Department memo states that the Water Rescue Program would be temporarily suspended for 30 to 45 days while the firefighters renew their water swimmer certifications which they’d let lapse (!).  That memo also states: “We have been approved new funding to re-certify instructors and train new swimmers.”  The Water Rescue Swimmer Training WAS FUNDED!  Additionally, our City Budget has line items that allocate funds for 8 to 10 AFD water rescues per year!  Why is the AFD lying about this?!

How could our Alameda Fire Department (AFD) not know who to engage to effect a water rescue?

The AFD initiated the response to the event as a 5150, a psyche event. That means the Alameda Police Department have to be in charge of the event and create a perimeter. They definitely did not create a perimeter: a kite-boarder was able to circle the victim!  Whoever was in charge at the outset, didn’t know what to do.  We’ve listened to the Alameda County Emergency Communication Center audio recordings of the call, and the county had to lead the AFD to know what to do.  Well into the incident, the County changed the event to a water rescue, not the AFD.  Worse: the AFD requested help from the US Coast Guard.  So, the USCG came out with their boat but the water was too shallow; they could only get within 100 feet of the victim.  And the AFD hadn’t said anything about a water swimming rescue, so the USCG had no water swimmer on board of the boat; they had to order one via helicopter, but the helicopter was engaged with another event, then needed refueling.  All this time, the AFD requested nothing of any other agency. Not the County, Oakland FD, or San Leandro FD.  How did the AFD not know that calling the USCG to rescue someone in 6 feet of water didn’t make sense?  Daily, the AFD is charged with knowing the resources and capabilities the nearby Mutual Aid agencies can provide—each agency publishes this regularly for this purpose. The AFD should have known which agency to engage to effect the rescue they say they could not. They should have made a request to engage one of those nearby agencies, each of whom could have effected a water rescue in shallow water within 30 minutes, well before Mr. Zack succumbed to the elements.  They did not. Worse, any one of those agencies, approved for water rescue, could have been here in 15 minutes and simply walked out there to talk with Mr. Zack.  The AFD did not request the appropriate mutual aid resources at all, let alone in a timely manner, in order to get the job.  The AFD exhibited absolutely zero common sense or concern and compassion for humanity.  Quite the opposite.

Mr. Zack stood out there for over an hour while the AFD waited for a boat that couldn’t help, then a helicopter that had to refuel and not get there in time.  This is an AFD failure to perform of colossal proportions.

The AFD was strictly limited in their rescue attempts due to protocols! Why blame them?

Protocols are guidelines. First responders are expected to arrive on scene, assess the situation, then use their brain to get the job done. Just two weeks ago, the Oakland Police Department arrived on scene, discovered the event was a burning apartment building full of people. Did they stand there and wait for the Oakland Fire Department? No. They rushed in, no equipment, no protective gear, no training. Why?  If they had not, lives would have been lost.  They deviated from protocol because that’s what was required in order to do their job of protect and serve.

Our AFD on the other hand, cannot even so much as walk into shallow lake-like water to talk to a man.  Bring him a board to hold on to. Or show him in any way that someone cares.  The AFD behavior on May 30, 2011 was cruel, inhuman, unspeakable; there are no words!

It’s a 5150. What did the Alameda Police Department do?

Nothing.  They did not use a bullhorn from shore to engage the victim in a dialog.  They did not walk out there to talk to the distressed and despondent man.  They claim they were afraid for their lives; Mr. Zack could have been dangerous. If that’s the case, why did they not put a perimeter in place—like they are supposed to do with a 5150—to protect the public from this dangerous man?  The kiteboarder who circled Mr. Zack could have been killed!  Worse: the APD management, Chief Noonan claims Mr. Zack could have had a gun. Noonan also said that he had to prioritize the safety of his officer; he couldn’t send them in without their guns which they’d have to remove to go into water. Well, which is it? Either Mr. Zack’s gun is disabled from being wet and he’s not a risk in that way OR his gun is intact out there in the water, and the APD could go in armed too. None of their explanations make sense.  Common sense should have prevailed: an officer can go out without their gun and take with them a can of pepper spray for god’s sake!

Why did an outraged volleyball player have to go bring Mr. Zack to the shore?

Like other spectators, she believed all those uniforms on the beach were about to do something. When Mr. Zack succumbed to the elements and started floating, she approached the firefighters to do something, then became furious when she they told her they would not go into the water.  She immediately swam out and brought Mr. Zack to shore. He was still alive. Again, there are no words for the AFD’s callous behavior and refusal to perform here.

No one from the APD or the AFD attempted to bring Mr. Zack in.

If it’s a dead body, the County Sheriff must extract the body. They didn’t–we don’t even know if the Sheriff was on scene!  But Mr. Zack was still an alive person needing rescue. The AFD remained firm to their original decision to not get their boots wet no matter what.  And the APD, well we have no clue why they wouldn’t do their job.  But what of the Emergency Services personnel?  When on-scene of a submersion victim, their Alameda County EMS protocols dictate that they immediately “extract the victim from the water”.  Their protocols do not prevent them from entering the water, and quite honestly, suggest they do whatever is necessary to start immediate medical aid to any victim. Why didn’t they do their job?!

Who was in charge of the scene?  Why was this emergency call so poorly handled?

We don’t know.  Despite CalPRA (California Public Records Act) and FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) requests for public documents, the city—the AFD, the APD, and the City Attorney—are stonewalling this. They are not providing the incident reports, and they are not providing what should already be public documents, the SOPs or Standard Operating Procedures for water rescue, mutual aid, etc.  I actually sat at the Fire Department last week for two hours waiting to see their protocol documents, the things they work from on a daily basis; I was not allowed to even view them onsite, and that is a clear violation of state law.

Mayor Gilmore has said that there will be an investigation; that she’ll keep things transparent here. But she’s done the exact opposite. We cannot get documents. And worse: not one person from this event who was in charge, who made decisions, is on administrative leave! She’s definitely not taking this serious enough.


Enough is enough! The city won’t change unless we manage up!

The AFD’s failed history shows that we can each of us expect to be at risk for harm from future failures to respond unless we do something now!

The 2009 FISC Fire: the AFD failed to engage regional and state agencies to protect us from the friable asbestos that blanketing our homes and entered the lungs of ourselves and our children.  There will be future disease and suffering from this. And it didn’t have to happen this way. If they’d called Cal EPA and the Bay Area Air Quality Management District like they are supposed to during a toxic fire event, those agencies would have been onsite during the event, conducted an evacuation of residents and businesses, and provided a proper clean up along with the funds for it. Instead, the AFD told residents to mow the asbestos up, which further contaminated us.  Instead, the city clammed up, failed to protect us, but spend $1.5 million on a safe clean up of the toxic fire site! Not one dime was spent on protecting residents from asbestos contamination!

2010 Crude Oil Transfer & Spill

25 9-1-1 calls complained of a wall of toxic air pushing across our city from The Point to Bay Farm Island.  Battalion Chief Zombeck found the source: a single-hull craft, The Jovalan, with decrepit equipment at the marina at Main Street, near the FISC site, attempting to transfer crude oil to a dual hull craft (so the crude oil could be delivered to a refinery; they don’t accept deliveries from single-hull craft!).  The Jovalan’s equipment was in such bad condition that it was leaking all over. And the people working the equipment didn’t know how to use the newer equipment on the receiving boat, so fumes were escaping like no other.  And there was oil on the water: a crude oil spill.  Any first responder knows 1. if there’s something toxic in the air, you call the air district. If there’s oil on the water, you call CAl EPA and the USCG.  Zombeck did neither. After looking at the boat and talking to the Good Old Boys down at Main Street, he phoned me and said everything was just fine, it was black oil and that’s not toxic. First: why does the AFD lie like this? It was crude oil, a controlled substance, that is highly toxic and we have strict state and federal rules around the stuff.  Second: why doesn’t the AFD care to protect us from being contaminated?  Third: why don’t they simply do their job?!?!  The ranked officers must know how! They could not get their ranks without extensive written and oral exams that would require they know how to call regional and state agencies to do the jobs they need help with!

2011 Zack Assisted Suicide

Three strikes!  AFD You’re OUT!!!!!!!!!  The AFD has repeatedly shown incompetency or unwillingness to flat out do the job they know how to do.  It looks like they are not properly trained. It looks like their procedures and protocols are outdated.  How can this be?  Our fire chiefs are paid BANK to lead the agency—–what’s gone wrong?  WE MUST COME OUT IN FORCE AND DEMAND THE CITY FIX THIS. WE CANNOT TOLERATE ONE MORE DEATH OR CONTROLLED AND TOXIC SUBSTANCE CONTAMINATION because  THE AFD RESPONDED and fail to perform.


IF YOU REMAIN MUTE, YOU CONDONE AND PERPETUATE BUSINESS AS USUAL! Alamedans are typically mute residents, bystanders to the city management. But we’ve been warned: the AFD has had incomprehensible failures that have harmed the entire 75,000 population of Alameda. Remaining mute, not demanding city management and leadership fix this, you contribute to the problem.  In this say, all Alameda residents contributed to The Zack Assisted Suicide—we did not do enough to get the city to fix what’s wrong at the AFD, and we have to live with the results of that. Well, no more!



CIty Council Meeting~ 7:00 PM ~ CITY HALL ~ 2263 Santa Clara Avenue 


About Denise Lai

Alive. Swim (fly is the best). Walking with my dog (weims are the best). Life is good. Would prefer people understood negative externalities and prevented themselves from creating them. Feeling the love anyway. View all posts by Denise Lai

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