Berkeley police officers conducted what was described as an extensive search Saturday evening after receiving a report of a man in the area witnesses believed to have been carrying a rifle.
Ultimately, officers found no one matching that description, said Lt. Alyson Hart of the Berkeley Police Department.
“It’s a call that we take extremely seriously,” she said. “It’s an unusual call, but you never know.”
Hart said it’s possible that what the witnesses saw was a BB gun, or something else altogether. Sometimes, police get calls that turn out to be hoaxes too, though Hart said she didn’t think that had been the case in this instance. Without having found the man, it’s impossible to know for sure.
Initially, BPD got a report at about 6:45 p.m. that a white man in dark clothes, about 6 feet tall and 20-25 years old, was walking northbound in the 2400 block of Warring Street while carrying what the caller believed to be a rifle. He had short hair and a black jacket, with a slim to medium build.
Residents told Berkeleyside the man was seen in the area of the Oscar Wilde House, which describes itself as a “LGBTQIA & Queer themed” home that’s part of the Berkeley Student Cooperative network.
The house is located at 2410 Warring, south of Channing Way and not far from the UC Berkeley campus. More than 30 people live in the co-op, according to its webpage.
“As America’s first lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer themed house for students, the Wilde house offers a haven of tolerance for those who transcend traditional sexual orientation, gender identity, and/or gender presentation,” according to its website.
Police responded quickly to the area but saw no one matching that description. Officers also set up a perimeter to limit traffic to and from the block, and did a floor-to-floor search from the basement to the roof of at least one property on Warring, according to scanner traffic reviewed by Berkeleyside. The search turned up no one matching the description.
Word spread online through the campus community about the possible sighting through both the UC Berkeley-based Free & For Sale group on Facebook, and the Wildfire public safety app. Berkeleyside tweeted about the call, too.
Hart said Sunday that, had police believed a man with a rifle was indeed on the loose, authorities would have taken steps to inform the community.
“We would have ramped it up,” she said. “It definitely didn’t get to that point.”
BPD did tell UCPD about the alert, and that agency has its own notification system for those affiliated with the UC Berkeley campus. (Both agencies use the Nixle alert system to broadcast timely information about significant calls related to public safety.)
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