[Editor's Note: This story has been updated throughout the day. Scroll down for updates.]
Berkeley High went on a precautionary lockdown at around 10:30 a.m. Wednesday following police activity involving a report of a weapon near the school.
Berkeley Police Lt. Dave Frankel said the incident began just after 10:20 a.m. when a lone man “dressed in distinctive Army clothing” entered a business in the 2200 block of Shattuck Avenue and tried to rob it with a simulated weapon. The business didn’t cooperate, said Frankel, and the man left. He was followed by an employee who called police, and officers responded within minutes.
The caller said the man went into the downtown post office, so police set up a perimeter and put Berkeley High on lockdown temporarily. Police notified postal employees to shelter in place. Officers detained the man inside the building without incident, and a witness identified him as the person involved in the robbery attempt. His name was not available pending booking.
According to reports from students, Principal Pasquale Scuderi announced that “we will always play situations like this safe and conservative.” The lockdown lasted less than 30 minutes. No students were reported in danger.
At 10:57 a.m., BHS sent out an email to the school community which read: “On the advise of the Berkeley Police Department there was a brief lock down during a police action off campus. The lock down is over. Everyone is safe. More information will follow.”
Update, 3:07 p.m. Principal Scuderi sent the following notice to parents via email at 12:23 p.m.
Dear BHS Families and Staff:
This morning at approximately 10:25 a.m. the Berkeley Police Department received a call of an attempted robbery in the downtown area possibly involving a weapon.
Our understanding is that BPD believed that the adult suspect ran into the post office directly across from our school at Allston and Milvia.
The size and nature of the police response led us to alert safety officers and campus monitors, and shorty thereafter we were advised by BPD to lock our campus down. We remained in lockdown from approximately 10:30 a.m. until 10:40 a.m.
We have received word that the person BPD was looking for is in custody.
A lockdown, or a complete securing of the campus, often serves two purposes; namely, to prevent potential harm from entering the campus and also to prevent kids and adults on our campus from exiting into situations that could be extremely dangerous.
In general, we believe we had an effective response from our staff and our kids. As always, we will review our processes and protocols, take feedback from staff and students, and assess our response so that we continuously improve in all practices and protocols related to student and staff safety.
I am fully aware of the unsettling tension and anxiety these situations invoke, and can assure you that Berkeley High School will always approach any direct or indirect threat to student or staff safety with the highest levels of concern and with the most appropriate precautions.
Update, 4 p.m. The man who was arrested after Wednesday morning’s robbery attempt was 41-year-old John Lott, according to the Alameda County sheriff’s department. Lott was booked into custody on suspicion of second-degree robbery. He’s being held with a bail of $100,000 at the Berkeley Jail. Lott is scheduled for arraignment at 2 p.m. on Friday, March 22, at the Wiley W. Manuel Courthouse in downtown Oakland.
Additional reporting was contributed to this story by Emilie Raguso.