OAKLAND (CBS SF) — Police in Oakland on Friday identified the suspect and victim in a fatal shooting that happened in front of the victim’s children and dozens of other kids during a youth football practice earlier this week.

Police confirmed Friday afternoon that 36-year-old Oakland resident Daniel Stitch had been arrested in connection with the fatal Wednesday shooting that left Reuben Lewis dead.

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Oakland homicide suspect Daniel Stith (OPD)

Oakland police said the shooting happened at around 5:30 p.m. Wednesday night at Concordia Park on the 2900 block of 64th Avenue in Oakland, not far from Mills College. Arriving officers found a male gunshot victim who succumbed to his injuries at the scene.

Stith, who lives about 11 blocks from the park, turned himself in at a San Leandro police station after the shooting. Police said admitted to others he was the shooter. 

Friends who were remembering Lewis as a leader and a mentor told KPIX he and the victim Lewis knew each other.

Friends and team coaches said Lewis came to Concordia Park with his son to pick up his other two kids from football practice. Authorities said a group of 50 to 70 children ranging from 5 to 14 years old were in the park wrapping up practice.

“Initially, I heard one gunshot,” said Coach Walte Orr, President of the Oakland Dynamites Youth Football program. “I turned around and couldn’t locate where it was coming from. So my next instinct was to get the kids to safety. Then I heard a second gun shot.”

Orr then realized his friend Reuben was shot.

“I was trying to keep his sons from not being able to see their father on the ground,” said Orr. “He was a great guy. He was not in the street. A mentor. Proud to say he was my friend.”

Lewis was a former coach of the Oakland Dynamites. He also coached basketball in another youth league. Candles were laid out in tribute to Lewis on a sidewalk along the park and a GoFundMe page was established in his memory.

Oakland homicide victim Reuben Lewis (credit Walte Orr)

Oakland Police Chief LeRonne Armstrong had also known the victim for about 10 years. They used to play basketball together.

“He was a fixture at our Midnight Basketball program. He was a fixture who I would sometimes see at the Warriors games,” said Armstrong.

People who knew the suspect told KPIX Stith was dealing with mental illness. Armstrong said they’re still working on a motive in the shooting.

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“This is an all hands on deck moment. We all need to step up and speak to people in our community about putting down guns and ending the violence. The police will not be able to arrest its way out of this,” said Armstrong.

Earlier Friday, Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf addressed the Wednesday incident and the city’s alarming spike in homicides so far this year, calling the brazen daytime shooting was “beyond the pale.”

Schaaf spoke to KPIX reporter Anne Makovec in a Zoom interview Friday morning.

The city has seen a major rise in fatal shootings since the beginning of the year, with 24 homicides reported since January 1st. The current rate is five times higher than the number reported just last year through February 26th.

“This is gut wrenching. For that many children to witness one of their own peers’ fathers — who is there in support of his children, watching a football practice — to lose his life in broad daylight, in a park, in one of these sacred public spaces, that is beyond the pale,” said Schaaf when asked about the rise in deadly street violence.

Schaaf noted that the suspect was arrested and would be charged soon.

“We are just wrapping our arms around these young people,” said Schaaf. “They need counseling. They need therapy. No one of any age should have to witness someone being shot, but certainly not children that young.”

She also said she is in “constant communication” with both the police department and the city’s Department of Violence Prevention regarding the rise in violent crime. She noted that cities across the country are experiencing a spike in violence during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“There is some nexus to COVID, not necessarily the disease itself, but its impacts.” said Schaaf. “But these shootings and homicides are really unprecedented for Oakland. We’ve now had our 24th homicide after just last night.

Schaaf continued: “Heartbreaking after we made so much progress. National recognition [where] Oakland is cited in books and articles as being one of the most successful efforts to cut violence in half and keep it there for years. And this year has just undone all of that effort.”

Oakland has also been dealing with an increase in assaults on Asian Americans, with an increasing number of attacks being caught on camera like a man who was seen shoving a 91-year-old man to the pavement earlier this month and a more recent purse snatching that showed the victim being dragged by a car.

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Da Lin contributed to this report.