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Airbnb bans ‘party houses’ after five killed during Halloween party held at rental


Nate Gartrell and Mike Lefkow
The Mercury News

A somber mood could be felt in Orinda and other East Bay communities in the wake of the Halloween Orinda party shooting that claimed the lives of four young men and one 19-year-old woman, as investigators and the public search for answers.

In Orinda, neighbors left notes of support at a makeshift memorial outside of 114 Lucille Way, a property that was being used as a short-term rental when shots rang out around 10:50 p.m. on Thursday. More than 100 partygoers were present, but details of exactly what transpired continue to be scarce.

The victims have been identified as Tiyon Farley, 22, of Antioch; Omar Taylor, 24, of Pittsburg; Ramon Hill Jr., 23, of San Francisco/Oakland; Javin County, 29, of Sausalito/Richmond; and Oshiana Tompkins, 19, of Vallejo/Hercules, who died at a hospital Friday afternoon.

Another victim, a Vallejo man in his 20s, went into a coma after being shot, his father told reporters Friday.

The party was advertised on social media as a “secret” mansion party with musical performances by underground Bay Area rappers. In a flyer posted to Instagram and other social media platforms, people interested in attending were instructed to direct message organizers for the location.

Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky announced on Twitter Saturday morning that the company was banning “party houses” from the short-term rental platform. Reached by phone Saturday afternoon, Rep. Mark DeSaulnier called that “good news.” He said the shooting was an example the need for regulations to keep up with “innovations in tech.”

Omar Taylor was asked to DJ at the party, according to his father, who spoke to reporters late Friday evening. Omar Taylor’s brother, Omari Taylor, is a star running back for Clayton Valley High School and played in a Friday evening game against De La Salle. His teammates wore “OT” on their uniforms as a tribute to Omar.

“My teammates, my brothers, they said they were going to be there for me,” Omari Taylor said after the game. “It was good. I was surrounded by good people. I stayed with my team.”

Omar, his brother said, was “a strong man” who “taught me right from wrong.”

“He was one of my biggest influences,” Omari Taylor said.

Police have not announced any arrests, but say they interviewed eyewitnesses at the scene, though many partygoers ran away in the “chaotic” aftermath, Orinda police Chief David Cook said at a press conference Friday.

And investigating violence in large crowds or parties can be challenging, especially on Halloween, when involved parties may have been wearing costumers.

“Even with something less frightening and stressful, you’ll get a whole bunch of different stories,” said Elizabeth Loftus, a cognitive psychologist at the University of California, Irvine and well-known expert on human memory. “The difficulty is when people talk with one another or get interrogated by someone who has a hypothesis, or when it’s a high publicity event, where there are news accounts…That has the potential for contaminating the memory of others.”

Two guns and several shell casings were left behind and are being analyzed. There are also two license plate readers in Orinda, and numerous homes are equipped with security cameras. Videos from party attendees have surfaced online depicting the aftermath of the shooting, but it is unknown if the shooter or shooters were caught on tape.

San Francisco police were observed at the scene Friday, and Oakland police say they’ve joined the investigation. The FBI is also involved, authorities said. They are exploring the possibility that the shooting was gang-related.

A partygoer who survived the shooting arrived at the Lucille residence Saturday morning, limping as she exited her car. She was sobbing, looking for a neighbor who helped her that night, but declined to speak to a reporter.

Calls for legislative action

The shooting has led to immediate calls for further regulations in the short term rental industry, in Orinda and across the state. The Lucille Way property had been rented through Airbnb, and its owners had been reprimanded months before for large parties and a garbage problem, city officials said. Neighbors said large parties at the home were common, though a city ordinance has a 13-person limit.

“Personally, as somebody who was in local government and believes in zoning laws, I think if you invest in a house you shouldn’t have what basically turns out to be a hotel next to you,” DeSaulnier said. “We’ve got to figure this out.”

The Orinda City Council has made a last-minute change to the agenda for its meeting this Tuesday, creating an item for discussion of possible changes to the city’s ordinance on short-term rentals, as well as “enforcement.” The owners of the Lucille Way property had been given notice by the city for violating a law limiting parties to 13 people prior to the Halloween shooting.

The City Council will also have a moment of silence for the victims.

Twelve hours after the shooting, Gov. Gavin Newsom released a statement on Twitter calling for “commonsense gun reforms.” State Sen. Steve Glazer, whose district includes Orinda, Tweeted condolences and that he will “continue to focus on keeping deadly weapons out of the hands of people who commit such atrocities.”

Airbnb will also create a rapid response team for party houses and take “immediate action,” including removal, against users that violate what Chesky called “enhanced guest policies.” The changes will be lead by Margaret Richardson, vice president for trust at Airbnb, whose team will “initiate a 10 day sprint” to develop and speed up the implementation of the changes, Chesky tweeted.

“We must do better, and we will,” he tweeted. “This is unacceptable.”

Ray Chavez contributed to this report.


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