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Promoter blamed for party gone bad

By Kurtis Alexander, Daily Planet Staff
Tuesday July 09, 2002

Arts center says organizer broke contract 


Employees at south Berkeley’s Crucible arts center said the gunfire that injured two people during a weekend hip hop show happened when an overcrowded party got out of control. 

The shootings, some employees said, were fueled by fraud and misrepresentation by event organizer Eugene Cockerman. But police have not yet determined a motive. 

According to employees, Cockerman told them he was a member of nonprofit fraternity Kappa Alpha Psi when he asked the Crucible to host a “small” community dance at which 1,500 people showed up - five times the number that was agreed upon.  

Two people were injured by what police described as “random” bullet fire. San Francisco resident Duwane Fields, 23, was taken to Alameda County Hospital. The second victim, a juvenile whose name was not released, refused medical treatment. The victims’ conditions were not know Monday. 

Marketing director Kate Rutter said the Crucible routinely rents space to community groups. As is standard, the Saturday group hired security people while Crucible had staff on hand to monitor the event. 

The arts center staff said that by 10 p.m., an hour after the party started, people at the party were obviously violating several rules in the contract. Alcohol was illegally served. Minors were present. Many more than the limit of 300 people were there, and more were pouring in.  

“The organizers refused to comply and became physically threatening to Crucible staff,” Rutter said in a written statement. 

At about 10:30 p.m., police arrived to help shut down the event. When they heard gunfire, teams of officers swept through the crowds in pursuit of the shooters. 

Crucible staff said the victims were shot two blocks from the building. But police did not confirm that, and said details are still being investigated. 

The shots drew more than 100 police officers from eight law enforcement agencies who shut down several blocks along Ashby Avenue and the nearby Interstate 80 entrance. No one has been arrested. 

Crucible directors feel betrayed. 

“It’s tragic that anyone would hijack a community organization and hold an event for personal profit at the expense of a respected artist community,” Crucible Executive Director Michael Sturtz said in a written statement. 

Police have no suspects and are unaware of any motive, Lt. Cynthia Harris said. 

Event organizer Cockerman could not be reached for comment. But according to police, the local promoter has planned hip hop shows in other cities at which similar contract violations happened. 

To book Saturday’s show, Cockerman had provided proof of insurance and a security deposit, and had signed a contract binding him to the center’s regulations, Crucible staff said.