OAKLAND / Couple to keep fighting for their neighborhood / 59th Street residents had considered selling their house

Against the advice of police, Patrick McCullough has decided to continue his crusade against drug dealers on 59th Street in North Oakland rather than moving to a safer neighborhood.

McCullough, 49, and his wife, Daphne, hung a banner Thursday in their front window -- "I AM NOT MOVING," it said -- after they decided that selling their home did not make economic sense or seem "right or fair."

"My wife and I just don't want to let the drug dealers win," said McCullough, a radio technician who works part time as a lawyer. "That's just a really negative message. I want to stay here and make the neighborhood better."

McCullough, who has routinely chased away drug dealers who congregate near his home, made headlines in February when he shot and wounded a teenager who was among a group of young men McCullough said had assaulted him. Police said McCullough had acted in self-defense after seeing the boy reach for a gun in another youth's waistband, and the district attorney's office decided not to file charges against him or the boy.

McCullough said their decision to stay in the neighborhood was primarily based on "desire to stick it out and succeed" but was also rooted in economic realities. They think it is a bad time to sell their home and move because publicity has scared other buyers away.

The McCulloughs purchased their home through a city program that provides loans to first-time homebuyers. City officials offered them an exemption from a rule that would have required them to pay the city half of their equity if they sold the house.

But the McCulloughs said they would still have to pay the city $35,000 if they moved, making it that much harder to come up with a down payment on another home.

Since they moved into their home in the 500 block of 59th Street in 1994, the McCulloughs have told young men they suspect are selling drugs to go away. They've also frequently called police. Patrick McCullough was assaulted in his yard in 2003, and a 5-pound chunk of concrete was tossed through a window last fall.

On Feb. 18, McCullough shot 16-year-old Melvin McHenry in the arm after, he said, he was surrounded and assaulted in his front yard by several young men who shouted, "Snitch! Snitch!"

McCullough said he fired when he saw Melvin reach into another youth's waistband to pull out what he believed was a gun. But Melvin and his mother, Stacy Hegler, said McCullough had provoked the incident by shouting profanities at a group of young people walking by and then swinging at the teenager.

Melvin's family plans to sue McCullough. Their attorneys, Ivan Golde and Daniel Horowitz, also have asked McCullough's home insurers to pay Hegler $300, 000. Hegler also is seeking a court order to keep McCullough away from her residence and prevent him from keeping a gun in his home.

A judge already has granted McCullough and his family an order requiring Melvin and his mother to stay away from them.

"Patrick McCullough is a danger to this street," Hegler said last week. "We are the victims."

Mayor Jerry Brown visited the McCulloughs, and they have been widely lauded for their efforts to clean up the street. But after February's incident, they contemplated selling their home and moving to another neighborhood.

Real estate agents confirm that potential buyers have backed out of deals to buy nearby homes because of the publicity about 59th Street. Potential renters also have changed their minds about moving in. This comes at a time when two-bedroom homes only a few blocks away list for $500,000 and are receiving multiple offers.

Oakland police Lt. Lawrence Green, who oversees patrols in the area and has posted extra officers on 59th Street, had advised the McCulloughs to move and said he wouldn't consider living there even if it was free.

But Green said Thursday that police supported the McCulloughs and would do "everything we can" to make 59th Street safe.

"I'd rather see the dope dealers move out and not the good citizens," Green said. "It would be a tough loss because it feels like we've made so much progress in those neighborhoods."

Since the banner went up, Daphne McCullough says passing neighbors have flashed "thumbs-up" signals of approval, and police officers have left supportive voice mails.

"Neighbors don't want to see us go," she said. "We're the ones who have been fighting."