Pregnant woman robbed at gunpoint in South Berkeley

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Jen Boynton was mugged at gunpoint after she crossed this intersection, heading west, at Woolsey and Tremont, at 9:30 a.m. on Monday, Dec. 9, 2013. Photo: Google StreetView

A pregnant woman was robbed at gunpoint yesterday morning a block east of Ashby BART station in Berkeley. Police believe the suspects who mugged her may have committed several similar robberies in the area in quick succession that morning. And they come in the wake of a rash of robberies and car jackings over the past two weeks in this South Berkeley-North Oakland border area.

On Monday morning, Jen Boynton was walking from her home in Oakland to the Ashby BART station in South Berkeley, as she does most days to catch the train to work.

Boynton, who is seven months’ pregnant, was walking west on Woolsey Street and was crossing Tremont Street at about 9:30 a.m. when she noticed a car parked south of the intersection. A man got out of the car, crossed the intersection, and approached her. He pulled out a “serious-looking” gun and demanded she give him her backpack.

Boynton responded: “Why? I’m pregnant.” The man repeated his demand and she gave him her bag. He walked back across the intersection and got into the driver’s seat of a black Toyota Venza.

“I started screaming at the top of my lungs,” said Boynton (who concedes using the pregnancy card didn’t work, although it has done so for her in less dangerous situations in the past). Onlookers were already dialing 911. The residential area, which borders a BART parking lot and the Ed Roberts campus, was busy and several people witnessed the robbery.

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The vehicle used by the  suspects was a black 2009 Toyota Venza LL, (license plate 6CDC832) that was taken in a car jacking on Dec. 8. Photo: OPD

Boynton said she got a good look at the mugger and was able to get the license plate number of the car he was driving.

The robbery is one of several that happened yesterday morning in the immediate area that are being investigated by authorities. Oakland Police say they appear to involve the same suspects using a car stolen in a car jacking.

In an alert issued to solicit help from the community, OPD said they responded to several robberies in the area of 66th and Raymond, the 600 block of 63rd St., and the 600 block of 66th St. on Monday morning.

The vehicle used by the robbery suspects was a black 2009 Toyota Venza LL (license plate 6CDC832), that was stolen in a car jacking on Sunday Dec. 8, OPD said.

The suspects are described as: a black male, late teens, 5’10”-6′, thin, medium complexion, black hoodie, baggy clothing; armed with gun; and a black male who was driving the car.

Boynton’s backpack contained her wallet, a laptop computer, and a Kindle. It would have included her phone but she had inadvertently left it on her charger at home.

In addition to this series of robberies, there were three robberies, one conducted with a firearm, in the neighborhood last week on Wednesday, Dec. 4, according to Crimemapping data. At 9:30 p.m. a robbery occurred at Prince and Wheeler streets. At 9:38 p.m there was a robbery at the intersection of Prince and Fulton; and the robbery with a firearm took place at 10:15 p.m near the intersection of Telegraph and 66th.

There was also a shooting at Ashby Flea Market on Sunday Dec. 1 when a volley of bullets led to a 21-year-old Berkeley man being shot and injured and Ashby BART being shut down for the evening.

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The suspects’ car. Photo: OPD

A friend of Boynton’s had in fact alerted her via email of that earlier rash of robberies close to her home, as well as several burglaries, via email, and she said she was on alert. But, she said, this particular intersection is both “well populated” and “well lit,” and the incident was totally unexpected.

“There’s even a daycare center near there,” she said. “I see mothers dropping their kids there all the time.”

Boynton has lived nearby for the past two years, and lived for four years in Berkeley before that. “It’s a neighborhood in transition,” she said. “But this is the first time anything like this has happened to me or anyone I know. I know we have a lot of robberies in this area, but a robbery of a pregnant lady with a semiautomatic handgun at 9:30 am in the middle of a well populated intersection seems particularly bold. ”

If you have any information that could be useful to the police, please contact OPD at 777-3211. In addition, Nixle Tip Watch allows tipsters to send OPD a tip three ways: 1. Text TIP OAKLANDPD to 888777 from your cell phone. 2. Call the toll-free tip hotline at 855-TIPS-247 (855-847-7247). 3. Respond to OPD’s Nixle messages.

Berkeleyside has requested information from the Berkeley Police Department and will update this story when new information emerges.

Follow Berkeleyside on Twitter and Facebook. Email us at tips@berkeleyside.com. Get the latest Berkeley news in your inbox with Berkeleyside’s free Daily Briefing.

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  • guest

    Dear Punks who did this despicable thing:

    I would direct insulting comments to you if I thought there was even a minute chance that you can read.

  • Curious

    Why bury the description of the perps – who are still ARMED AND ACTIVE IN THE COMMUNITY – in the middle of the article?

    Shouldn’t that information be front and center on the front page?

  • Doc

    Dear city council, please add to the police budget. BPD make life in Berkeley possible.

  • South Berkeley

    The City of Berkeley and BART need to take some responsibility for the unsafe conditions around Ashby BART. While I realize this crime happened during the day, the area is woefully under-lit in the evenings, when the three armed robberies happened last week. Woolsey Street, the main route to the BART station, is very dark. The problem was made worse when the new Ed Roberts came in, and new lighting was added to the parking lot but NOT to the street! The parked cars are nicely illuminated in the BART parking lot along Woolsey and Tremont, but now the sidewalks, where the pedestrians are, appear even darker. How about a greater Berkeley and BART police presence? BART should help make sure its patrons are safe! As a neighbor, I’m a bit at a loss who to contact to start putting pressure on getting some help with the crime here. The City’s public works department to improve lighting? Our councilmember? THe Berkeley Police Chief, our BART Director? All advice welcome. Maybe a concerted letter writing campaign will get someone’s attention. Any specific names and contact info much appreciated.

  • guest

    Put pressure on CopWatch and associated groups to leave town. Our cops have a hard enough time dealing with crime with low staffing levels as it is without the meddling of the multiple anti-police groups in town.

  • Iceland_1622

    “It’s a neighborhood in transition,” she said. | Mistake and major critical thinking error # 01 of several. This woman has no street smarts. What she is talking about is her very limited Caucasian bubble like world view and ‘desire’ vs. what is and the way it will continue to be deep into the foreseeable future. I was warned coldly and clearly never to walk in this neighborhood by someone who was unable to leave this part of town. The only way it would be ‘safer’ would be to have Nation Guard troops on the street corners and military grade Hummers patrolling the streets at night. Move quietly and yet make it a top priority now. If you continue to just play pretend and deny you are going to be in for even greater awakenings and they are not going to be as pleasant as this was as even when these perps are captured — and these are not the brightest of the bunch also — there are two hundred more being created as I type, every night and morning. Again move quietly and relocate to a safer area and neighborhood for your children on the way if not your own personal safety.

  • bgal4

    One of the last time there was an uptick in armed robberies around Ashby and MacArthur BART neighborhood leaders brought together all three police agencies and both city’ representatives. Needless to say Max Anderson and Darryl Moore did nothing substantial to follow up on the list of recommendations from the community. Without sustained and resourced neighborhood councils problems like crime are not properly addressed, the city wants it that way, they did everything they could to kill our neighborhood council initiative.
    At this point the old timers who put in years of work building capacity and developing a blue print have given up hope.

  • StevenM

    Oh please. According to you, one should a. Never walk this neighborhood, and b. Move. Really? And are you really blaming the victim here, for lack of “street smarts” and for… living here? Or for not sharing your (assumedly) non-Caucasian world view, and lack of ‘desire’ for a safer neighborhood? A most un-helpful comment, if I ever saw one.

  • iicisco

    I would immediately bring up the folks that hang around the Rosewood Manor and point PD in that direction, but 9:30a seems a little early for them to be out on the prowl.

  • bingo

    it seems so hopeless…like squeezing water around in a sealed bag…if one enhances police at a certain spot, the trouble just migrates a few streets over. very discouraging. just reading this article made me so upset.

  • bingo

    events like this make me despair for the human race. predatory behavior, at its best—but we’re supposedly a bit more evolved than that.

  • luvgabe

    Iceland,

    So you’re blaming the victim: “This woman has no street smarts” and “her very limited Caucasian bubble”

    And yet, curiously, non-Caucasian blacks with plenty of street smarts are the main victims of black-on-black crime.

  • southberkeleyres

    The police bulletin on Berkeleyside showed a 6AM robbery near King and Harmon recently. I wonder if they even went to bed that night.

  • southberkeleyres

    We need CAMERAS around the perimeter of Ashby BART station. Too bad passenger safety, BART infrastructure and equipment doesn’t get enough attention while BART employees seem to be the number one priority. We need BETTER, BRIGHTER LIGHTING around BART.
    Regarding the CopWatch comment, CopWatch benefits financially from the Ashby Flea Market. I wonder if they were concerned about the recent shooting, or have concerns about counterfeit and stolen goods at the flea market.

  • bgal4

    Agreed, but there are actions we could take,yet Max and city of Berkeley have no interest in supporting these efforts.

    I have family using BART regularly so I am personally concerned. The last time I was jumped was 5 years ago at the SW corner of BART.

    This is not the first time this area has been targeted with lowlifes robbing moms with strollers and pregnant women.

    I love the bay area, and despise the armed gangsters and the politics, so I am not planning on staying here after we retire, which is shitty because my kids are here. I just want some peace in my old age, and not having to watch my back.

  • Truth Sayer

    Hold on for just a Jack Daniel’s minute. Why are you blaming her because she is not “street smart?” Then you advocate activation of the National Guard? Why not be reasonable. catch the thug and put him in jail for an extended stay (making sure that everyone in prison know what he did).

  • Truth Sayer

    Yep, good point.

  • guest

    Yup. totally agree. Let the Berkeley booster club crow about how tolerant and peaceful everyone is here while some of us feel frightened for our lives. I’ve given Berkeley my best shot, I love it dearly, but this town ain’t all that when it comes down to safety and security, never mind the lunatic politics and so on.
    I don’t feel safe walking around unless I have my pepper spray at the ready.
    I’m leaving as soon as I can get my house ready for sale. Enough is enough.

  • Bartarded

    BART doesn’t have any money for passenger safety. They need it all for the platinum-plated pension and benefits packages for their surly button-pusher employees.

  • guest

    When a realtor says “neighborhood in transition” what they mean is “you’re probably going to get robbed on your way home from work some night.”

  • A. Guest

    Berkeley is a great place to live and work when you are young, but I would never retire here. Too expensive, too many thugs, too little for your money. You can find similar communities that are cheaper and friendlier up North. Might not be as ethnically diverse but that’s a small price to pay for not having to worry about being beaten to death over a cell phone.

  • thomas Jr.

    Sounds like Berkeley needs Don Corleone.

  • thomas Jr.

    Yes, let’s blame working class people for the violent barbarity enacted by those who have(or feel they have) no other opportunities to earn a living or income besides robbing people.

  • zenloop

    Build a transit center over Ashby Flea Market NOW!!!

  • Yeesh

    I don’t know which is worse, the blind defense of unionized robbery of taxpayer money or the suggestion that criminal thugs are the real victims.

  • uncoded

    because they are presumed to be members of the b-l-a-c-k underclass and we don’t like to talk about that because, well folks might generalize and that would be UNFAIR.

  • Chris J

    For simple reasons of finance, retiring here in berkeley, much less the US, simply isn’t in the cards. My wife and I own property across the pacific in the Philippines and there, amidst tropical breezes, monsoons, and the occasional typhoon, there we will retire. Crime isn’t a major issue, living is much more affordable, and the people are affable and kind.

  • Chris J

    Thieves and strong arm crooks go for the lowest hanging fruit–women, the elderly and anyone like that whom they perceive carry ‘stuff’. 930 am seems pretty brazen, though. Not as safe as perhaps earlier in the day–most may have gotten to work by then.

  • Truth Sayer

    Will you please, please stop telling the truth?

  • Truth Sayer

    Predators should be known throughout the community. Protecting their identity allows them to prey on unsupecting people (regardless of ethnicity) without fear of being identified or social sanctions. It is significant to not that these thugs prey on all poor and underclass mores than than the wealthy.

  • thomas Jr.

    I don’t know which is worse, the lack of situational and historical awareness, or expecting cameras and lights to stop criminals.

  • jenboynton

    Thanks Iceland –

    Pregnant lady here. “Neighborhood in transition” is obviously a euphemism for a neighborhood where crime occurs. I used this phrase to indicate that I am aware that this neighborhood is a mixed bag in terms of safety and I do act accordingly. I’m careful when and where I walk, I keep an eye on my surroundings, I walk briskly and do everything else one can reasonably expect to do to keep from looking like a target. In this instance, I was targeted because I am vulnerable – I can’t hide my enormous belly. The thieves assumed, rightly so, that I would not put up much of a fuss if they tried to take my stuff. And letting a person who has a gun pointed at you take your stuff is the street smart thing to do, especially when you’re pregnant. Everything is insured and backed up so I would have been pretty stupid to risk getting shot over my $100 deductible. I did scream my head off, get a great look at the guy such that I can identify him if he’s ever found, and I also managed to memorize his license plate number. I think I behaved as “street smart” as anyone could expect to behave.

  • bgal4

    Glad you are safe. I think you were targeted because you were alone, it could have been anyone, they were armed.

    I think it terribly sad that people are discussing street smarts and vulnerability and not the importance of spending the money on law enforcement to get guns out of the hands of criminals.

    http://oag.ca.gov/news/press-releases/attorney-general-kamala-d-harris-brings-together-district-attorneys-law

    “The APPS program is unique to California and it is simple
    common-sense that prohibited persons should not possess firearms in
    violation of the law,” Attorney General Harris said. “The Department of
    Justice will be increasing the number of agents conducting these smart
    and effective operations.”

    Earlier this month, Governor Jerry Brown signed into law Senate Bill
    140, which gives $24 million to the APPS program. With the funds, the
    Attorney General will hire 36 additional agents. The Department of
    Justice will be able to increase enforcement operations statewide,
    including in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Sacramento, Fresno and
    Riverside.

  • disqus_S1ql48Vi9i

    I agree with the folks who say she wasn’t being street-smart. Face it, she wasn’t.

  • disqus_S1ql48Vi9i

    Jen can I inquire what kind of insurance you’re referring to? Is your stuff covered under homeowner’s insurance? Serious question.

  • jenboynton

    Everything is totally covered by my renter’s insurance (through USAA)

  • Yeesh

    Who said anything about stopping criminals? We’re talking about CATCHING them, using VIDEO SURVEILLANCE to identify them.

    Wait until your wife or daughter gets mugged and pistol-whipped at the Ashby BART station and then we’ll see if you sing the same tune.

  • thomas Jr.

    I appreciate that, and I’m not arguing against increased surveillance or lighting, in fact I support it. But it’s crazy, to me, to bring BART workers into your argument. I think the robberies will continue to happen as long as the root causes remain – lack of economic and educational equality and opportunity. I’m sorry that anyone gets robbed and I think the criminals should be punished severely, but I think if we really want it to stop we’ve gotta realize what actually causes it.

  • John Gulino

    I have the most tremendous sympathy and empathy for people that are unemployed and struggling financially, so they turn to crime. But why is it always left out of the conversation in our society that people who are broke, and facing financial difficulties, can still make the choice to be honest? How poor can these two people be, if they have a halfway decent automobile? I mean, two suspects, able bodied, capable of working, young fellows? I have a friend, immigrant from a foreign land, who barely speaks English, and is sleeping in his car. I never see him robbing and stealing.

  • Yeesh

    Sure, and the root cause is an anti-intellectual culture that looks down on hard work and education in favor of making a quick buck robbing or selling drugs.

  • Coddler

    Why work hard when you can just rob pregnant women, pistol whip girls walking home after work and steal their purses? Poor criminals! They shouldn’t be expected to put in a hard day’s work or struggle to get an education. No, that’s just not fair!

  • Iceland_1622

    @jenboynton That’s *very* unusual. Armed robbery coverage and reimbursement with such a low deductible?

    One medical MD I know from NYC carries a 9 mm semi-automatic in his medical doctor bag here after being robbed so many times at gunpoint in New York that he was angry and fully determined to not allow that to occur again if at all possible. Crazy way to live as well as dangerous and legally charged and very burdensome on about 5 different levels.

    Here is a tip: Spend a day over on Solano Ave. in Albany near all of the places where all of young school people gather after classes. It’s just beautiful and filled with hope and life energy. Down towards the theater on the opposite side of the street are young adults on the way up of all mixed ethnic heritage, especially from S. Asian and the Pacific. They are so full of life, hope and spirit and so many of these young women are so stunning ( sexy! ) in a more ‘natural’ and grounded way. Better schools, better *parents* ( Asian American ) and a safer and more family oriented neighborhood. This is where I would send people to live or at least check out.

    We all have our life lessons to learn and some of them will nearly break you as they have done to me I am sorry to say. Stay with the forces of life and if that means relocating to upper or lower Solano, get right on. You can get over to any part of Berkeley using the correct commute streams without much time or difficulty. Best wishes to you, however use this experience wisely. We all have only so many heartbeats in this life.