MLK Community Center shooting suspect appears in court

A man charged with attempted murder for allegedly shooting another man during a barbecue at the Martin Luther King Community Center in San Mateo Aug. 23 appeared in San Mateo County Superior Court Tuesday and will return next week for further arraignment.

Hayward resident Sullivan Omar Gayden, 28, faces charges for three felony offenses for the shooting, including one count attempted murder with the use of a firearm, one count assault with a deadly weapon and one count possession of a firearm by a felon, Chief Deputy District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe said.

He faces up to 50 years to life in prison if convicted, Wagstaffe said.

The center at 825 Mount Diablo Ave. was being rented out for the annual “San Mateo OG Barbecue” when the shooting occurred before 5 p.m. “OG” stands for original gangster, but Deputy District Attorney James Wade said the barbecue is a community event held for long-time San Mateo residents and is not gang-related.

The shooting occurred when the victim and his brother were at the picnic and the victim's brother continued an ongoing verbal dispute with Gayden, Wagstaffe said.

When the victim tried to pull Gayden aside and talk about the dispute, Gayden allegedly pulled out a handgun and shot the victim multiple times in the torso, leg and arm before fleeing on foot, according to Wagstaffe.

The 36-year-old victim was transported to Stanford Hospital for surgery and is expected to recover.

Police issued a warrant for Gayden's arrest Aug. 25, and he was found around 9:30 a.m. Thursday at a private Merced residence and taken into custody.

Gayden is not new to the county's justice system. With three prior violent offenses, this will be the fourth time he has been charged with a serious violent offense, according to Wagstaffe.    

Gayden appeared in court Tuesday wearing an orange jumpsuit and handcuffs and accepted the services of the county's private defender program. He was ordered to have no contact with the August shooting victim and will return to court Sept. 10. He remains in jail on no-bail status.

Gayden's mother watched the proceedings and said afterward that her son has turned his life around since serving time in state prison.

“That was years ago. He served his time for that,” Nafisah Abdul said outside the courtroom. “All everyone is doing is talking about his past. Why don't they talk about what he has been doing since he got out?”

Abdul said her son, who records rap music and writes poetry, was raised in San Mateo and has recently started attending community college classes. She said he attends the OG Picnic every year.

“He didn't go there to shoot. He goes there every year,” Abdul said.

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