- The Washington Times - Friday, August 26, 2005

OAKLAND, Calif. — Patrick McCullough and his family live on the doorstep of a world to guns, drugs and, since he shot a teenage neighbor in self-defense earlier this year, a never-ending fear of retaliation.

“That’s the scary part,” says Mr. McCullough’s wife, Daphne, who like her husband is a lawyer. “If they really wanted to do something to us, they could. We don’t want to move, we’re just watching.”

Today, Mr. McCullough, 50, looks out on 59th Street through drawn blinds, with its trees, a park and children playing. A laptop computer displays a view from the street outside, caught on a surveillance camera paid for by the City of Oakland after the February shooting. He cringes when a child’s cursing voice comes crackling through the window.

“I see these kids out here now, there’s no respect. I mean, it wouldn’t matter if my wife was walking outside right there, it wouldn’t matter,” said Mr. McCullough, a Navy veteran who is no stranger to the dangers of the street having grown up on Chicago’s South Side.

“So, a certain amount of this stuff I’m used to and I can tolerate because you can’t change the whole world. But on the other hand, certain stuff I just won’t tolerate,” said Mr. McCullough.

And he wasn’t trying to change the world when he shot 16-year-old Melvin McHenry in the arm in February — two years after being severely beaten by a group of young men outside his home that left a permanent scar above his right eye and led him to purchase a gun.

It was raining when Mr. McCullough said he was attacked Feb. 18 by a group of young men while walking from his house to his car. Melvin and the others heckled him, refusing a demand to leave. The altercation escalated, he said, when Melvin took a swing at him and the others threw rocks and bashed him with a tree branch.

He said he pulled his gun when he saw Melvin get a pistol from one of the other attackers.

“The tables got turned just like that because I defended myself to their surprise,” said Mr. McCullough, whose 9-year-old son, Patrick, witnessed the incident.

Melvin, now 17, survived the gunshot wound and moved to Fremont in the South Bay Area with his mother. Charges were never filed against Mr. McCullough. Melvin’s attorney, Ivan Golde, was reluctant to comment, saying only it was fortunate no one was killed.

“Hopefully everyone’s learned from this, that’s what it’s about” Mr. Golde said.

Oakland Police Lt. Lawrence Green, in charge of the drug team for the North Oakland neighborhood where the McCulloughs live, said it was prudent that Mr. McCullough defended himself.

“For everyone, really, it still gets down to the law of the jungle at some point because for Patrick McCullough in front of his house or you or I walking down the street, you could have to fend for yourself from any manner of attack from somebody,” Lt. Green said.

“These things take moments and what’s done is done.”

But Lt. Green still thinks it would be best for Mr. McCullough and his family to move from the neighborhood.

“Do you really want to have to live with such attention to your own house? Do you really want to have to come home and really be watching stuff? Do you want to look at your [surveillance video] camera before you walk outside? To me it wouldn’t be worth it,” he said.

The McCulloughs scraped by to purchase their home in the pricey Bay Area in 1994 and have no intention of going away.

“We’re not moving,” said Mr. McCullough, who has received support from neighbors around the area, including a visit from Oakland Mayor Jerry Brown.

One of his neighbors, Milton Simpkins, whose son was fatally shot in the early 1990s, said he and his wife, Lorna, have struggled to raise their children in the neighborhood, but believe it’s getting better.

Mr. Simpkins said people now call police when a crime is being committed and neighbors watch out for each other.

Last week, Mr. McCullough said his insurance company settled with the McHenry family for $55,000 without his knowledge.

“Who says crime doesn’t pay,” he added.

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