This year, Berkeleyside stepped up its crime coverage, with a new weekly police blotter designed to offer the most in-depth look at available crime statistics from the Berkeley Police Department. We covered the city’s most serious crimes, such as homicides, robberies and shootings, and scoured the arrest logs daily to locate significant incidents. We delved into court files to find out important details about many local arrests, which allowed us to report much more information than is readily available from police, and attended numerous court hearings to follow the most notable incidents through the judicial process. We’ll continue deepening local crime coverage in 2014 but, for now, here’s a round-up of the most significant crimes that impacted Berkeley in 2013.
Homicides in Berkeley
There were four homicides within the city limits this year, three of which took place in West Berkeley. In February, Zontee Jones, 34, was shot in broad daylight on Delaware Street and San Pablo Avenue. In August, on the other side of San Pablo at Delaware, Dustin Bynum, 24, was shot at close range in front of Bing’s Liquors.
Then, in September, 22-year-old Anthony Medearis Jr. died in a shooting near Eighth and Camelia streets. Arrests have been made in those three cases.
Berkeley’s other 2013 killing, of 26-year-old Jermaine “Third” Davis in July, was not without ties to West Berkeley; Davis’ family has lived in West Berkeley for decades. Berkeleyside broke the story of how Davis was the brother of a man killed in a gang-related shooting in 2009. Police have not reported any arrests in that case, but said it set off a spate of violence that ultimately led to the shooting of an 8-year-old girl in Oakland. Authorities said a cousin of Davis, Joseph Carroll Jr., was one of two men responsible for the child’s shooting, believed to have been retribution for Davis’ killing. The other man, Darnell Williams Jr., was charged with shooting and killing Medearis (above) during a dice game among friends in September.
Though the city itself has had only four homicides in 2013, a fifth fatal shooting, of 21-year-old Alverto Santana-Silva of Fremont, took place on Grizzly Peak Boulevard outside the city limits in May. No one has been reported to have been arrested in that case.
We also had the news of the settlement between the Cukor family and the Berkeley Police Department, stemming from the family’s concerns about how police responded to Peter Cukor’s brutal killing at his home in 2012.
Violence crosses Berkeley borders
Several of the year’s most notable crime stories took place in Oakland, but deeply affected the Berkeley community due to close local ties. In November, Maybeck High School student Sasha Fleischman was set on fire on a bus in Oakland while wearing a skirt. Authorities said it was a hate crime.
A woman killed late last year in Oakland, Jessica Kingeter, had grown up in Berkeley, dancing for 12 seasons in The Nutcracker at the Julia Morgan Theater on College Avenue, swimming in Lake Anza over the summer, and helping her mother with a radio show about dancing on KPFA. Berkeleyside stories about her death were widely read and commented on by our readers last January. A former Berkeley High School student, Jamaal Prince, was charged in her murder.
At least two other killings took place this year in Oakland but involved teenagers with deep Berkeley ties. In May, former Berkeley High School student Olajuwon “Tutu” Clayborn was fatally shot in East Oakland. Just days after Clayborn’s killing, 17-year-old Berkeley High junior Isaac Johnson Jr. was fatally shot in what his father described in a radio broadcast on KPOO 89.5 as a random drive-by in North Oakland.
We also reported on the Berkeley connections of the man authorities said was responsible for the shooting deaths of two police officers in Santa Cruz; an Albany teacher police said committed sexual offenses with juveniles in Berkeley; a former Berkeley shooting suspect who was killed in Oakland; and the heavy police presence at a funeral in Berkeley for the victim of an Oakland homicide.
Shootings and robberies
Numerous shootings and robberies took place in Berkeley this year, from the high-profile shooting at Ashkenaz at a 40th anniversary celebration, which left two employees with serious injuries, to shootings at the Ashby flea market and on Telegraph Avenue. A Berkeley firefighter was shot at while responding to a medical call, and shots fired near a West Berkeley park upset many neighborhood residents.
We took a close look at robberies this year. Just recently, a pregnant woman was robbed at gunpoint in South Berkeley, and Berkeley and Oakland police have been working together to solve a spate of robberies in both cities. Police arrested five people after a home-invasion robbery attempt earlier this year. A gunman robbed a Solano Avenue bank in January. We spoke with the man who fought back against robbers at Cafe Med in the fall. And we took a hard look at the statistics, reporting in May that robberies were up 25% citywide compared to 2012.
Drugs and guns
We provided exclusive coverage of a range of arrests involving guns and drugs in Berkeley, like the couple found with the unregistered gun stash; four arrests linked to a guns and meth bust; two arrests of men linked to a mail-order marijuana business; and a probationer found with a 77-plant marijuana grow. We also had the exclusive story of seven arrests and three firearms recovered by Berkeley Police in a single week.
Reader tips often help us report breaking news quickly. We had the news of the Shattuck Avenue closure due to a bomb squad investigation; a man arrested after a downtown stabbing earlier this year; and a man arrested on suspicion of attempted murder in downtown Berkeley in October, Duane Nailor, who led police on a chase into North Berkeley before crashing in an SUV. When traffic was backed up on Shattuck Avenue due to an Oakland police investigation, we had the story. And when police were on the scene for a report of a barricaded man in central Berkeley, we were there.
Getting to know the Berkeley Police Department
We took readers on a 12-hour ride-along with the Berkeley Police and went behind the scenes during an “active shooter” drill at a school in North Berkeley. We photographed a police promotion ceremony in May, rode along with the police chief during National Night Out in August, and described the Berkeley Police win at an Urban Shield tactical training contest in October. We took a close look at Tasers, which many in the police department say would make them more effective at fighting crime. We’ve also followed the in-custody death investigation of Kayla Moore, which is expected to continue into 2014.
Crimes around schools
Safety around Berkeley schools, whether it’s the high school or the Cal campus, has been a major topic of community concern. We reported on a high-profile fight outside Berkeley High early in the year, the robbery of a Berkeley High student, a lockdown at the high school due to police activity, and the arrest of several juveniles with a gun near Berkeley High, among many others.
Police investigated an armed sexual assault in People’s Park, arrested a man said to have videotaped himself masturbating in front of two Berkeley High girls, arrested a man reported to have sexually assaulted multiple women in November, and reported on a man who tried to abduct two Berkeley girls in May. There was also a police manhunt around the marina after a sexual attack, and the sentencing of a man who received 45 years to life in prison after sexual assaults in Berkeley several years ago.
Hit-and-run drivers caused some notable injuries this year. A driver struck three blind pedestrians in October. And a man was struck by a car and killed while walking on the University Avenue overpass, prompting a wave of concern about pedestrian safety in that area.
There was also the case of the thieves who ran over a Berkeley man after an interrupted home burglary on Senior Avenue. Police used fingerprints from the scene to track the men to Sacramento and arrest them.
Unusual incidents happen in Berkeley, too
Some of the more bizarre crimes that happened in Berkeley this year: the arrest of a woman linked to a $19,000 make-up heist; the shooting of a local girl with an arrow at the Laurence Hall of Science; and the arrest of women who used a stun gun in several robberies in Berkeley in one day.
Then there was the man arrested after trying three times to steal beer from Berkeley Bowl; the local liquor store clerk said to have been dealing in stolen cell phones; the Vallejo couple charged with embezzling $842,000 from an elderly victim; the license plate photo that led to an arrest after a West Berkeley robbery attempt; and the 8-time felon arrested after an attempted homicide in South Berkeley.
Trend reporting is important too
After all this, it’s well worth noting that, though pedestrian robberies and burglaries have shown an increase this year, other crimes are down. In the most recent report on crime to the Berkeley City Council from Berkeley Police Chief Michael Meehan, he reported that, overall, reports of most serious crimes have remained nearly flat. The crime reporting increases seen in Berkeley are also reflected in regional trends, he said.
But despite the minor year-to-year changes, Berkeley still has more robberies and burglaries per 1,000 residents than many other large Bay Area cities. Read more of Berkeleyside’s statistical crime coverage here.
Berkeley resolutions for 2014 – and how 2013 went (01.01.14)
Top 2013 stories in Berkeley: Newsy, quirky and plain fun (12.31.13)
The most important Berkeley stories of 2013 (12.30.13)
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