OAKLAND / Neighborhood discord heats up / Drug-dealing accusations lead to another court filing

mccullough_032_pc.jpg Since 1994, Patrick McCullough has been complaining to Oakland police about drug dealers � and telling the young men who congregate in front of his house at 59th and Shattuck to move on. For his efforts, he has endured harassment, threats, vandalism and one assault. Patrick McCullough at his home on 2/25/05 in Oakland, CA. McCullough has been single-handedly taking on drug dealers that ply their trade in front of his North Oakland home and was briefly arrested - but not charged - after shooting one of them in the arm. PAUL CHINN/The Chronicle Ran on: 03-08-2005 Kevin Thomas, who lives on 59th Street near Shattuck Avenue in Oakland, says drug dealers leave him alone because hes a tae kwon do instructor. He is a friend of Patrick McCullough, the 49-year-old man who has tried to clean up the neighborhood for 10 years. Ran on: 03-08-2005 Kevin Thomas, who lives on 59th Street near Shattuck Avenue in Oakland, says drug dealers leave him alone because hes a tae kwon do instructor. He is a friend of Patrick McCullough, the 49-year-old man who has tried to clean up the neighborhood for 10 years. MANDATORY CREDIT FOR PHOTOG AND S.F. CHRONICLE/ - MAGS OUT
mccullough_032_pc.jpg Since 1994, Patrick McCullough has been complaining to Oakland police about drug dealers � and telling the young men who congregate in front of his house at 59th and Shattuck to move on. For his efforts, he has endured harassment, threats, vandalism and one assault. Patrick McCullough at his home on 2/25/05 in Oakland, CA. McCullough has been single-handedly taking on drug dealers that ply their trade in front of his North Oakland home and was briefly arrested - but not charged - after shooting one of them in the arm. PAUL CHINN/The Chronicle Ran on: 03-08-2005 Kevin Thomas, who lives on 59th Street near Shattuck Avenue in Oakland, says drug dealers leave him alone because he's a tae kwon do instructor. He is a friend of Patrick McCullough, the 49-year-old man who has tried to clean up the neighborhood for 10 years. Ran on: 03-08-2005 Kevin Thomas, who lives on 59th Street near Shattuck Avenue in Oakland, says drug dealers leave him alone because he's a tae kwon do instructor. He is a friend of Patrick McCullough, the 49-year-old man who has tried to clean up the neighborhood for 10 years. MANDATORY CREDIT FOR PHOTOG AND S.F. CHRONICLE/ - MAGS OUTPAUL CHINN

Residents of a changing North Oakland neighborhood took another step Friday in their battle to shut down rampant street drug dealing on their block, taking a neighbor who they claim harbors drug dealers to small claims court for the second time.

But a defiant Elsie Cooper, the 78-year-old owner of 540 59th St., and her family said the neighbors simply want to drive out one of the last African American families on the street.

"This is a malicious, racist suit to extort money from her," said Sylvia Cooper, 30, of San Leandro, one of Cooper's 15 grandchildren. "What goes on outside, the police can't control it. How can she control it?"

Decade long tensions on the block, between Telegraph and Shattuck avenues, erupted last month when resident Patrick McCullough, one of the leaders in the fight against the drug dealers, shot a 16-year-old neighbor he said pulled a gun on him while a group of youths surrounded him and called him a snitch.

The neighbor, Melvin McHenry, said McCullough started the fight. Prosecutors did not file charges against either.

As residents like McCullough have moved to the neighborhood in the past 10 years, they have increasingly worked with police to put pressure on dealers who congregate on 59th Street and in nearby Bushrod Park.

Two years ago, a group of residents filed a claim against Cooper and a neighbor, saying their homes and properties were havens for drug dealers. They won a judgment of nearly $50,000 and when the women didn't pay, liens were placed on their properties.

The neighbor sold her home, paying off the judgment against both her and Cooper.

But residents say the drug activity consolidated itself at Cooper's home, and they filed another claim. McCullough is not a plaintiff in the case.

Leila Moncharsh, an attorney for the 12 neighbors who filed the claim, each seeking $5,000, gave Judge Winton McKibben photographs and surveillance videotapes that she said show convicted drug dealers and transfers of drugs between individuals and cars on or near Cooper's property.

"It is so scary, and the vibe is so threatening," said Suzanne Baptiste, who owns a fourplex on the block but lives in Berkeley.

But Cooper, a 30-year resident who lives with a disabled granddaughter and nephew, denied that drug dealers are using her property. She said people who grew up in the neighborhood come by and she offers them water or lets them use the bathroom, but "nobody is selling drugs off my property."

Oakland Police narcotics Officer John Kelly testified he has seen drug deals in front of Cooper's house.

"I don't see how this will be abated unless some action is taken," Kelly said. "We can only do so much. The citizens can only make so many phone calls."

McKibben repeatedly asked witnesses what Cooper should do, and whether she would be at risk chasing away drug dealers. He also asked several neighbors why they had not talked directly to Cooper to try to solve the problem.

They said they were afraid to approach her house because of the purported drug activity.

Kelly said the only solution may be for Cooper to move. But Cooper shot back at her neighbors: "You go somewhere else. I'm not going anyplace."

McKibben ordered the two sides to meet and try to reach a solution before reporting back to court in a month. But he warned Cooper he might have to rule against her if the situation does not improve.

"If you're befriending people who are criminals, parolees and probationers, you shouldn't do it, for your safety and that of the neighborhood," he said

The neighbors "don't want your money," the judge said. "They want peace and quiet."