Man suspected of trying to abduct 2 Berkeley girls

The attempted abduction happened near the intersection of Berryman and Josephine streets near the King campus. Image: Google Maps

On Thursday, May 2, officials say two sixth grade girls, who were waiting to be picked up from King Middle School, were approached by a man who asked them to help him retrieve an item from his car. The case is being treated as a possible attempted abduction.

On Friday, King Principal Janet Levenson sent an email and a recorded message via phone-tree to the King community in which she outlined what happened: “Yesterday at 3:00pm two 6th grade girls were waiting to be picked up at Berryman and Josephine,” she wrote in the email. “A man approached them saying that his keys had fallen into his car and his hand was too big to retrieve them. He pointed to the car which had the door open and was a couple of cars up the street. One girl started to go help him but her friend realized the potential danger and convinced her that they should run into the garden for help. The mom arrived almost immediately but the man was no longer there.He was described as a white male, 5’10”, thin build, brown hair and eyes, and driving a silver 4-door vehicle with no trunk (possibly a small SUV). Please be aware of who is driving around campus and remind your students to wait in front of the school.”

King Middle School

King’s Principal, Janet Levenson, is urging parents and students to use the school’s main pick-up and drop-off area, which is supervised. Photo: King Middle School

Neil Smith, Berkeley Unified School District co-superintendent, said Levenson’s alert had been shared with principals across Berkeley Unified schools so “everyone is aware and alert.”

“BPD has always paid close attention to our schools in their regular routine; a commitment that Chief Meehan reiterated to the media following the incident in Connecticut, and we are confident that they are making every effort to keep our students safe while they investigate this incident,” Smith said.

“We take any threat to student safety very seriously, as does our entire community,” he added, saying also that community members should avoid overreacting or challenging “any potentially dangerous persons; there are a lot of eyes on the lookout for anything suspicious, ready to report to authorities so that this individual can be apprehended or discouraged.”

Berkeley High Principal Pasquale Scuderi called the incident “concerning. “The information was shared with us early this morning,” he wrote to the BHS community Friday, “and the description of the vehicle and suspect were immediately broadcast to our school safety officers, campus monitors, and administrators. Our School Resource Officer provided extra patrol today and we ask all parents to remind students to always be safe and aware of their surroundings. Students should report anything suspicious or any suspicious person to a staff member immediately.”

Andrea Lingenfelter, the parent of a King student, said the corner of Berryman and Josephine is a popular drop-off and pick-up spot, as the official spot, westbound on Rose, is “typically clogged.” In her audio message, Principal Levenson stressed that parents should be using the official spot to drop off (especially) and pick up children, even though it is crowded, as it is supervised, unlike the intersection of Josephine and Berryman.

The case is under investigation by the Berkeley Police.

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  • WuiceJeasel


  • 4eenie

    Thank goodness these girls avoided possible abduction/abuse and reported the incident.

  • bingo

    That’s a very perceptive friend. I’m glad they averted danger by sensing something amiss.

  • berkopinionator

    I’d like to see some police patrols around the schools after school gets out. Berkeley Unified security staff could ride bicycles around the perimeters once in a while. Perhaps parents should organize to keep an eye on what is going when their kids get out of school. We should try to get license numbers of the criminals parked around our schools. ***Berkeley Parking Enforcement has a system for recording license plates with cameras and computer technology. They should be circling the schools at pick up time to help us catch this predator.

  • cocoa

    I am a little shocked the district isn’t taking this way more seriously. I bet if this ended badly the cops would be there at pick up and drop offs forever. Is that what it takes- at least have a patrol car near the school at time of open gates. Jesus H christ!

  • Iceland_1622

    This article may or may not help in providing perspective and context to a complex and nuanced subject: Five Myths About Missing Children:

  • guest

    hard to tell if it was a serious abduction attempt or misunderstanding

    don’t want to freak out too much if it was nothing

    remember search for “pedophile” at childrens park in san francisco

    much ado about nothing

  • CarolynS

    Thank goodness these girls were smart and sensible. This sounds like a very dangerous situation. Berryman and Josephine is not a good spot though. I live right around the corner and it gets very confusing with cars clogging the intersection waiting for students. It would be good for the school and/or the police to discourage people waiting at that corner.

  • cwmacneal

    My daughter (Berkeley HIgh junior) has told us a story of something similar that happened to her on May 2nd or sometime that week. Man asked her to get keys from his car where he had dropped them. She was with a male friend who stepped forward to help, got the keys and that was that. In retrospect, it was probably the same man. We called Berkeley Police, who sent the call to Youth Services where I left a detailed message. No response. Really. My daughter has a description with an identifying mark not mentioned in the press. I am very surprised that we have not had a return call in two days.