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Police ID four killed at Orinda Halloween party in rented mansion

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ORINDA — A mansion rented through Airbnb for a Halloween party turned into a chaotic scene Thursday evening, when gunfire broke out, killing four people, injuring several others and sending more than 100 frightened partygoers fleeing from the posh neighborhood of this affluent city where violent crime is rare.

Police still don’t know whether more than one shooter was involved or have any motives.

On Friday evening, the Contra Costa County Sheriff’s Office and Orinda Police Department released the names of the dead victims — Tiyon Farley, 22, of Antioch; Omar Taylor, 24, of Pittsburg; Ramon Hill Jr., 23, of San Francisco/Oakland; and Javin County, 29, of Sausalito/Richmond. They said several injured victims were transported by ambulance, and others took themselves, to local hospitals. They either suffered from gunshot wounds or were injured while fleeing the scene. No other information was immediately available.

According to authorities, the Contra Costa County Sheriff’s Office crime lab is analyzing two firearms retrieved from the house to determine whether they were used in the shooting or any other crimes. Numerous shell casings found there are also being processed and analyzed.

Romand Reynolds, of Vallejo, told this news organization that his 24-year-old son Armani mentioned that he was going to a Halloween party on Thursday night “and the next thing I know he was shot” three or four times. He said his son is now in a coma.

Police went to the four-bedroom home at 114 Lucille Way after getting a report at 10:45 p.m. of gunshots being fired inside a short-term rental. Dozens of partygoers were running away from the property when officers arrived, and three people were pronounced dead at the scene.

“There was a lot of noise and yelling and people running,” Orinda police Chief David Cook said.

The fourth victim was pronounced dead at John Muir Medical Center in Walnut Creek, said hospital spokesman Ben Drew. Some eyewitnesses were interviewed by police, but no suspects had been arrested by Nov. 1. Police had not publicly confirmed whether there was more than one shooter. “We’re still trying to wrap our arms around what exactly transpired,” Cook said.

Friends drove Armani Reynolds to a local hospital, and he later was transferred to Highland Hospital in Oakland, where he remained in a coma Friday morning, his father said that morning. Romand Reynolds came to the blocked-off crime scene on Lucille Way on Friday morning to try to retrieve his son’s car.

“As far as I know, he was a victim,” Reynolds said. “He was just at the wrong place at the wrong time.”

The property had been reported by neighbors for having large parties before but had not been on the city’s radar for months, officials said. City regulations on short-term rentals prohibit more than 13 people from occupying a property, City Manager Steve Salomon said. The owner had been cooperative with city officials after the reports of large gatherings — including one in February that resulted in a violation notice for the owner — and said he would comply with the regulations, Salomon said.

“Up until last night, it appeared they had complied,” Salomon said. City officials said someone had emailed a complaint to the city at 9:35 p.m. Halloween night about a large party underway at the home, and Salomon added that he believed the person also had called police. Neither police nor the city would say whether police responded to that complaint.

Several hours after the violence, the streets were in darkness as a group of cars wound their way up and parked on a street as close as possible to the crime scene. People in the cars got out and huddled together, some crying. They appeared to have been at the party or to know some of the victims. A woman in the group told a reporter they did not want to talk. The group left a short time later.

The killings represent the largest number of homicides in the city in recent memory: Orinda’s last homicide was in 2012, Orinda Mayor Inga Miller said, when a man hacked his longtime girlfriend to death with a machete.

“We are focused on the four people who have lost their lives, their families and the other victims of this tragedy, including the four other people who have been wounded,” Miller said. “Our Orinda police are focused on finding the parties responsible. This is a tragedy of unimaginable gravity.”

The party home is accessed via narrow, twisting streets lined with multimillion-dollar homes on a hill southwest of downtown Orinda. The city of around 19,000 in central Contra Costa County is known as a quiet bedroom community.

But area residents said the Lucille Way house was known for hosting large, rowdy parties. Once there was a hit-and-run, and another time a liquor bottle was thrown into an adjacent property, according to two residents who did not want their names used.

Property records list the owner of the 3,972-square-foot home as Michael Young Wang and show a 2005 purchase price of $1.25 million. Residents from four homes in the neighborhood said he never appeared to move in or live there. Records show that Wang’s primary residence is in Concord. At the Concord home Friday, a Subaru SUV sat in the driveway, and although someone could be seen moving behind the curtains of a window, no one answered the door.

Police Chief Cook said that on Halloween the Lucille Way house was being rented by people “not from Orinda.” He declined to elaborate.

A screenshot of the Airbnb listing for the home, provided by Airbnb, showed that the owner specified there should be no weapons, smoking or marijuana, and warned that “neighbors are close” so the time between 10 p.m. and 8 a.m. was supposed to be quiet.

“We are horrified by this tragedy and are in close communication with Chief David Cook of Orinda Police to offer our support with his investigation into who committed this senseless violence,” Airbnb spokesperson Ben Breit said.

The company now has banned the person who booked the house from its platform, Breit said, adding that parties were specifically prohibited in the property listing.

Mayor Miller said the City Council would “discuss the issue of short-term rentals” at its next meeting, an indication the city might consider additional restrictions.

According to social media posts, an “AirBNB mansion party” had been advertised for Halloween night. The flier was adorned with crime-scene tape and told attendees to send a direct message to obtain the location and to “BYOB” and “BYOW” (Bring Your Own Weed).

Neighborhood resident Willie Yee said he was watching the news Halloween night when he heard “dozens” of people running in a panic for their cars.

“I knew right away this wasn’t anything ordinary going on,” Yee said.

The town is generally so quiet, Yee said, that people call it “Bor-inda.”

Even so, it’s not the first time an Airbnb party has made headlines in Orinda. In 2016, a party at a short-term rental on Camino Encinas led to a brawl, leaving one man in critical condition. The following year, the City Council adopted an ordinance requiring residents to register with the city and abide by various regulations if they wished to offer their homes as vacation rentals through Airbnb and other services.

Halloween parties, often festive affairs, have seen striking upticks of fatal violence last year and this year. In Long Beach this week, three men died and nine others were injured late Wednesday during a joint birthday-Halloween party. In an off-campus college party Sunday in Greenville, Texas, two people were fatally shot, and 12 others injured. Last year, a private Halloween party in East Palo Alto left two men dead and two others critically injured.

— Staff writers Angela Ruggiero, Jon Kawamoto, Levi Sumagaysay, George Kelly Alejandra Armstrong and Martha Ross contributed to this report.

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©2019 the San Jose Mercury News (San Jose, Calif.)

Visit the San Jose Mercury News (San Jose, Calif.) at www.mercurynews.com

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