The way that the number is traveling out of the reach of the Police Department and the district attorney I think we're going to need to send red flares up, SOS."
The Tamesha Tobie case is tricky; there were only three people in the room, and one is dead. The boy who police believe accidentally ended Tobie's life won't confess, Johnson said. Some relatives dispute the police's view that one of the boys mistakenly fired the weapon and instead believe the story the pair have stuck to so far that the gun fired on its own from the bed as they horsed around, the bullet smashing through the right rear of Tobie's jaw.
"Obviously the one boy who did it doesn't want to say anything to us," Johnson said. "And the other boy is somewhat traumatized, and his parents are worried about any possible criminal charges against him for associating with the first boy. So right now we're trying to corroborate the stories and what happened through other people who were in the house.... It's kind of a sensitive thing at this point."
But either way, Tamisha Tobie is the ultimate victim of gun violence, and while her death likely wasn't intentional, it's joined the city's steadily climbing homicide rate nonetheless.
Attempts to reach Tobie's family for comment were unsuccessful.
Statewide in 2004, 10 kids were killed after being accidentally shot either by themselves or by someone else, according to figures maintained by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. More recent figures won't be available until later this year. But according to media accounts and calls to local police jurisdictions, over the past 12 months, three children died similarly just in the Bay Area.
In June a five-year-old boy in Oakland shot himself while playing with a relative's gun, and a 28-year-old man was arrested for child endangerment in notably less time than it took San Francisco to complete Tobie's autopsy.
Just days after Tobie was killed, an 18-year-old girl accidentally shot a younger male teen in the city of Richmond with a revolver he'd found in the home where his death occurred. Last November a 16-year-old boy in Contra Costa County was killed after a friend accidentally shot him in the chest while playing with a .22-caliber revolver. Several other accidents occurred during 2006 in San Francisco and the East Bay, including one involving an Alameda toddler who that spring mistakenly shot his 20-year-old cousin with a .38 that belonged to a family friend.
The gun lobby complains that news stories depicting such deaths overstate the problem of accidents among kids and foster hysteria.
But Shawn Richard of the local nonprofit Brothers Against Guns has a response. The volume of deaths, he argues, isn't the story.
"It could be a low number. It could be a high number," Richard said. "Regardless, it's still ridiculous to deal with lives that are being taken by a gun."
Richard founded Brothers Against Guns after two of his siblings were shot to death in San Francisco during the 1990s. He joined the Mayor's Office, District Attorney Kamala Harris, and the Legal Community Against Violence in drafting a batch of local antigun ordinances that passed the Board of Supervisors last month. One requires local firearms dealers to send inventories of their weapons to the police chief every six months, and another requires all handgun owners to disable their weapons with trigger locks.
Richard is also working with Assemblymember Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) to ban gun shows at the Cow Palace, which is located on state property near the Sunnydale housing project, where violent crimes are a frequent occurrence.
But would all of the antigun news releases in the world have saved Tobie?