Authorities conducted a warrant search in South Berkeley early Thursday that was connected to a fatal shooting last week at the Seabreeze Market.
The Berkeley Police Department put out a notice Thursday evening about the operation after receiving “several inquiries” from community members about the disturbance.
According to the statement, the operation — which had been organized and carried out by the East Bay Regional Park District Police Department — took place in the 1500 block of Harmon Street early Thursday morning.
The Seabreeze is in Berkeley but is located within Park District boundaries near University Avenue and Interstate 80, en route to the Berkeley marina. Last week’s fatal shooting took place Tuesday, Oct. 28 shortly before 8 p.m.
According to a local resident who asked to remain anonymous due to safety concerns, Thursday’s operation began shortly before 5 a.m.
“It started with 4 flash bangs in succession … then a slight pause, then one more flash bang,” he wrote, adding that he was “woken up by the noise.” (A video of those flash bangs follows.)
He continued: “There was what sounded like two small caliber gun shots shortly after.”
He said he then heard police “announcing over a megaphone the same message over and over.”
Essentially, the message said: “This is the East Bay Regional Park District Police. We have a warrant. Please come out with your hands up. We don’t want anyone getting hurt.”
That message repeated for about half an hour.
The resident said officers were wearing “very large automatic weapons. At one point the weapons were drawn, aimed at the house.”
According to one commenter on Twitter, the “flash grenades” were used on the wrong apartment unit, and set a neighbor’s patio furniture on fire.
Some Berkeley residents said they heard what sounded like gunshots near Sacramento and 66th streets at about the same time.
According to the Berkeley Police statement, “While the operation was underway, several callers contacted BPD reporting hearing possible gunshots. This was unrelated to the Parks Police operation. BPD dispatched officers to the area but were unable to locate the source of the loud reports.”
Park District police said last week that investigators were looking for information on vehicles that might have been at the scene when the fatal shooting took place, including a white Ford- or Chevy-style pick-up truck with an extended cab, possibly a side step model. Investigators were also looking for a man spotted in the vicinity, who was described only as a heavyset black male in his late 20s to early 30s.
Police identified the victim from the Seabreeze shooting as 21-year-old Damarco J. Thomas of Stockton. Authorities said Thomas appeared to have known his killers, according to video footage from the scene. Sgt. Tyrone Davis of the Park District police force said there were three people in the area when the shooting took place, and that Thomas was shot multiple times.
Davis told the San Francisco Chronicle that the motive for the killing was unknown. However, he said it did not appear to be gang-related.
Little information is available publicly on Thomas’ Facebook page, but he wrote that he attended Berkeley High School and was from Oakland.
Wrote a relative, Marnesha Thomas, on Facebook: “we had so many conversations about life and about our family and about progression I can’t stop thinking about my lil cousin goin away. I wish it was peaceful I can’t stop crying for u cousin.”
Another close friend posted a tribute video to Thomas on Facebook, which included images of a candlelight vigil friends held at the Seabreeze to remember him.
Less than two weeks before Thomas was killed at the Seabreeze, an Oakland man — Bennie Williams — allegedly carjacked a vehicle from the market. It was just one of a number of carjackings and a murder Williams is alleged to have committed that day in Oakland. Beyond the location, there is no indication that Thomas’ death had any connection to those incidents. Some local residents have, however, reported increasing and troubling levels of crime, from drug dealing to sexual activity and theft, in the area.
Thomas’ death was the third homicide in Berkeley this year. In February, Sylvan Fuselier was killed with a hatchet in his West Berkeley apartment. In September, Nancy McClellan was fatally stabbed during a failed carjacking in South Berkeley.
Police are asking anyone with information about Thomas’ killing to call the East Bay Regional Park District Police at 510-690-6549, or its dispatch center at 510-881-1833.
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