Portrait of a Bully: The Dimond District Killer

(The Oakland Tribune has reported that the suspect has committed suicide in Stockton as a SWAT team closed in on him.)

When a double-murder happens just a half-mile down the hill from me, I pay attention. The daily papers gave it the one-and-done treatment, then it was onto the next “murder haiku,” as I dub the increasingly brief articles in the press about Oakland murders.

I knew it wasn’t a random act. Three men were shot, two of them fatally, on the evening of Sept. 23 in the normally tranquil Dimond Park area at a house on Canon Avenue. The street connects Dimond district to the back side of Glenview. Locals swim at the park’s pool or take their kids to the playground. In short, it’s not the typical place outsiders associate with Oakland.

A week after the murders of Michael Caldwell and Damon Wessel, police announced a warrant had issued for the suspected killer: Damon Joseph Ferreira. Police aren’t saying what set off Ferreira, only that it was a petty argument.

A review of some of the suspect’s criminal files and restraining orders shows that he was a virtual powder keg. What leads to such a tragedy? Could it have been prevented?

In Ferreira’s case, he appears to be a habitual bully and meth user with a Napoleon complex, 5-feet 5-inches, 200 pounds, covered in tats and built like a brick shithouse. (He had once stabbed a family pet several times, another hallmark of a deviate.) Did the 34-year-old get lenient treatment in the criminal justice system in the past, freeing him to murder two innocent, productive gay men and seriously injure a third man?

Police said that at the time of the murders, the suspect was on parole for a carjacking incident. He was already on probation in Alameda County in 2004 stemming from several misdemeanor batteries against family members and former girlfriends. I have searched local courthouses and databases but, apparently, the carjacking was out of another jurisdiction. The misdemeanor files show that he was in state prison in about 2006 and 2007. I doubt he did more than two years in prison in the carjacking case.

Oakland police Detective Sgt. Gus Galindo did not release much information today in a phone interview with P.E.C. He said that the survivor will recover physically from his wound(s). He pointed out that the victims are “totally innocent” and that there was nothing to suggest an argument over drugs or anything unseemly going on in the residence. He would not answer how the victims knew the suspect.

Ferreira was born Damon Keen in Alameda County. He grew up in San Ramon and Dublin. He apparently had no ties to Oakland and was hiding out at the Canon Avenue home while avoiding parole supervision. His father, who has since passed, had done time in federal prison in the 1970s after being convicted of beating someone trying to collect a debt for someone else.

Starting in 2003, Ferreira began terrorizing family and girlfriends to the point where he was the subject of constant restraining orders and arrests. In one case, he stabbed a family dog, “Wrinkles” 13 times with a crowbar and knife. One family member told the court in a restraining order: “He gets mad and goes crazy over nothing.” He also owed child support, threatening to “choke to death” the mother of his child. His extended family would kick him out of places and he would turn on them.

Relatives believed he was using methamphetamine, aka crank. A Dublin police officer wrote words in a 2004 report that foreshadowed the Oakland killings, “Damon is known for avoiding contact with the police, and has fled from us in the past. According to everyone I talked to, Damon has stayed with whoever can deal with him, and the stay is usually short.” He had also made threats to physically harm police officers. And, in yet another incident, he attacked and repeatedly punched a new boyfriend of a former girlfriend.

It appears that the Alameda County District Attorney consolidated several of the misdemeanor battery cases against him. He was convicted of one misdemeanor battery count, given credit for time served in county jail and given a few years probation in Pleasanton-Livermore court by Judge Vilardi.

Of course, on his probation for the misdemeanor he was ordered to complete a “temper-aggression program.” In November 2007 he was in state prison in Coalinga, apparently for the carjacking.

Yes, these murders happened in Oakland but it was done by an outsider, a bully who repeatedly terrorized his extended family and his community. Not that it really matters because the two men are dead. It appears that Damon Ferreira was another parolee who slipped through the cracks and who might have received light treatment by the criminal justice system. Remember, the guy who carjacked state Sen. Don Perata a few years ago in Oakland got 20 years in prison. (

America’s Most Wanted has profiled the case.

Detective Galindo said that they don’t know what, if any, vehicles that Ferreira could be driving. The suspect is a major threat not just to the community but to any law enforcement officer.

“You hope some poor young cop doesn’t pull this guy over at night in Stockton or somewhere else,” Galindo said. “It’s what keeps me up at night.”