Homeless shelter shooting victim: 'I was fighting for my life'

"I'm going through a lot of trauma," the victim testified. "I'm trying to erase that because it's hard for me to sleep at night."

Homeless shelter shooting victim: 'I was fighting for my life'
Berkeley police investigate a shooting outside Harrison House, Jan. 7, 2024. Paul Kealoha Blake

A man who was attacked and shot outside the Berkeley homeless shelter where he worked described the incident during a recent court hearing in Oakland.

"I was fighting for my life," he said. "This lasted, it seemed like, forever."

On Jan. 7, the man was working as a staff liaison at Harrison House, at 711 Harrison St., helping give out supplies and keeping residents safe.

That morning, he had just set out breakfast at 5:30 when a new resident took issue with the quality of the milk, Damon Foster testified at the recent preliminary hearing.

Read more about shootings in Berkeley.

"They kept on ranting and raving and was upset about the milk," he said.

Foster said he followed his deescalation training and did not engage.

Instead, he went outside to grab some cough drops from his car, which was parked nearby. That's when the morning took a violent turn.

"A gun was pointed to my head when I got out the car," Foster said. "I put my hands up."

Berkeley shootings in 2024: The definitive gunfire map
As of April 23, Berkeley has had 14 shootings with six people wounded. Last year, there had been seven shootings. One man had been hurt.

The man with the gun was later identified as shelter resident Jamar Scott, 35. He had just moved in a few days earlier, according to police.

Foster said he started struggling with Scott, grabbing his gun and trying to keep it pointed down.

"I knew, if it go above my waist, I didn't have a chance," Foster said. "I was lucky that he didn't get on top of me and just start unloading."

Foster said he was able to get on top of Scott as the men grappled on the ground. He heard the gun go off multiple times during the struggle.

It was later determined that he had been shot three times, leaving him with six gunshot wounds in his thighs, according to court testimony.

Foster said he felt himself getting shot, but his adrenaline kicked in: "I had to continue fighting," he said.

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Once the struggle ended, residents from the shelter helped him get back inside to safety. Foster said he knew he was "bleeding out."

Ultimately, he said, members of BPD's Special Response Team went into the shelter, grabbed him and got him into an ambulance that was waiting outside.

The police response that morning was complicated by the fact that witnesses had said there might be an active shooter inside the shelter. But that turned out to be inaccurate.

Foster said he was given a blood transfusion at the hospital because he had lost so much blood, and that one of his feet remains partially paralyzed due to nerve damage. He recently had surgery for a nerve transplant but testified that he is still in pain.

He said that the person who shot him had not said anything that morning and that he didn't know if the goal had been to rob him or something else.

He said he does his best not to think about the shooting.

"I'm going through a lot of trauma," Foster said. "I'm trying to erase that because it's hard for me to sleep at night."

Man shot on Harrison is first Berkeley shooting of the year
The call initially came in as an active shooter situation. Authorities ultimately determined that was not the case.

During the hearing, which took place in mid-April, a criminalist from the Alameda County Sheriff's Office described how he had determined that a gun seized during Scott's subsequent arrest was the same one used during the shooting.

The Scanner relied on a transcript of the hearing, which only recently became available, to write this story.

During the hearing, Berkeley police also testified about several aspects of the investigation.

Jamar Scott. BPD

BPD homicide detective Samantha Martinez described how U.S. marshals had found a loaded gun in Scott's waistband when they arrested him in March at a transitional housing complex in Oakland for people on Alameda County probation.

And Sgt. Andres Bejarano, BPD homicide unit supervisor, described how Scott had refused to cooperate during his arrest.

"We asked him multiple times to please stand up and have a seat in the police vehicle. He refused and threatened to spit in our faces, dropped himself to the floor," Bejarano said. "We picked him up and tried to place him in the back of the patrol vehicle. And he kicked the detective in the face while we were doing so."

That incident was captured on police body camera footage, which was played in court.

At the end of the hearing, Judge Jason Chin held Scott to answer on the charges against him, which include assault with a firearm, possession of a firearm by a felon, possession of ammunition by a prohibited person and felony battery on a peace officer.

Scott has prior felony convictions dating back to at least 2010, according to court papers, for drug sales, gun possession, domestic violence and criminal threats.

Walter Mitchell. BPD

A second man, 27-year-old Walter Mitchell, has already been convicted, of gun possession by a felon, in connection with the shooting at Harrison House in January.

He was in jail briefly and is now on probation, according to court records.

Meanwhile, Jamar Scott remains in custody at Santa Rita Jail in Dublin with a combined bail of $185,000, according to booking records.

He is scheduled to return to court for a disposition and setting hearing in June.

The Scanner aims to follow serious cases through the justice system. If you have questions about a serious crime in Berkeley, let us know.