Amid the clamor about whether authorities have done enough to crack down on violent protests in Berkeley in recent months, the fact that the Berkeley Police Department has made dozens of arrests has often gotten lost. But there have been no charges filed yet in any of those cases, so it’s unclear what consequences violent rioters might actually face in Alameda County.
The Alameda County district attorney’s office says it has not decided whether to pursue charges because the matter remains under review.
“Before we can make any charging decisions, it’s imperative that we have a full and complete understanding of the events, and have before us all of the evidence,” said DA’s office spokeswoman Teresa Drenick on Wednesday.
Drenick said the district attorney’s office has asked for further investigation from Berkeley police, and needs that process to conclude before charging decisions are made. There’s no set date for when that might be done.
“I think they’re working hard at it to give it all to us,” Drenick said.
Berkeley Police Chief Andrew Greenwood said last week that investigators have been working on reviewing videos and other information to turn over.
“The district attorney’s office, understandably, needs to be provided with the fullest amount of evidence,” he said. “We’re bringing them good cases.”
He said one challenge is that people may claim self-defense, or there could be “mutual combat,” so it can be tough to know who was at fault.
“The world sees little snippets,” he said. “What’s the video before and after? Who’s the primary instigator? And can you prove that to a jury?”
Charging decisions in large demonstrations can be complex, if the June 2016 Traditionalist Workers Party rally in Sacramento is any indication. In that incident, which made national headlines, hundreds of counter-protesters showed up to stop the white supremacist group’s event, and numerous violent outbreaks were reported. The California Highway Patrol did not complete its report detailing criminal allegations until mid-March, and charges still have not been announced. More than 100 people have been implicated, however, according to authorities in Sacramento.
The protest in Berkeley on March 4 led to 10 arrests that day, and prompted a batch of warrants for additional arrests. (Details about those warrants have not been released by BPD.) During the April 15 demonstrations, police arrested 20 more people. They said further arrests would likely be forthcoming once the department reviews video footage and other evidence from the violent clashes in and around Civic Center Park.
The March 4 protest cost the city $90,000, primarily in overtime pay, said Matthai Chakko, city of Berkeley spokesman. The tally for April 15 has not yet been completed.
At least one person has publicly taken issue with his classification by BPD as a potential suspect: a Bay Area activist who said he did nothing criminal March 4 but is wanted on a robbery warrant. Few details have been available about any of the other arrests because that information generally becomes available after charges are filed.
BPD has declined to comment this week about whether it is investigating Eric Clanton, a former student assistant at Diablo Valley College some have said hit someone in the head with a bike lock April 15.
Then there’s 41-year-old Kyle Chapman of San Francisco who was arrested April 15 on a warrant for battery from the March 4 demonstration. Police included Chapman on a list of arrestees from March 4, too, in connection with assault with a deadly weapon and carrying a concealed dirk or dagger. He later returned to Berkeley and was arrested again after authorities say he was attacked by someone with a skateboard and someone with a knife as he walked through Berkeley recording himself encouraging his supporters to come to town.
Chapman, who goes by the name “Based Stickman,” has vowed to return to Berkeley this week and says a rally will take place at 2 p.m. Thursday at Civic Center Park. His announcement follows a wave of tweets and speculation about a planned talk by Ann Coulter on Thursday that now seems to have been called off. Authorities are still preparing for Coulter fans and “free speech” advocates to descend on the city Thursday, though at least one antifa group — By Any Means Necessary — has said it will not show up. Parents have expressed concern about what Chapman’s rally might mean for nearby Berkeley High School students; Berkeleyside has reached out to the Berkeley Unified School District for comment.
A local parent who called BPD about Thursday’s rally said the department confirmed it knew of the plans but would not say more. Police and city officials have said releasing their plans in advance can compromise security. The bulk of the police department has been called in to work Thursday, and the city has been coordinating with the university to come up with a plan, as Coulter’s talk initially was slated to take place on campus. No one from BPD or the city has been available Wednesday to comment on what the community might expect Thursday.
The university does not plan to cancel classes although access to some buildings might be restricted said UC Berkeley spokesman Dan Mogulof. Officials will send out alerts through Nixle and Twitter, he said.
Arrests from March 4 also include Dustin Sawtelle, 39, of San Francisco, Jeffrey Armstrong, 32, of Oakland and Nathan Perry, 33, of Modesto on suspicion of assault likely to produce great bodily injury; Jeremy Wilhite, 23, and Rackell Anzaldua, 20, both of Fremont, on suspicion of battery; Michael Hornsby, 27, of Riverside in connection with rioting, battery and a warrant for false identification to peace officers; Nicholaas Molloy, 22, of San Bruno on suspicion of obstructing or resisting a peace officer; and a 16-year-old Berkeley boy and 17-year-old Concord girl on suspicion of battery.
The April 15 arrests include Robert Peete, 51, of Berkeley and Dennis Luke, 36, of Huntington Beach in connection with assault with a deadly weapon; John Cookenboo 27, of Albany, on suspicion of inciting a riot, possession of a switchblade knife and wearing a mask while committing a criminal offense; Sean O’Brien, 35, of Oakland on suspicion of violating a Berkeley Municipal Code; Addae Reciado 19, of Richmond, in connection with resisting arrest or obstruction; Rachel Schwarz, 33, of Oakland, Levi Romero 23, of Palmdale, and Robert Rundo, 26, of San Clemente, on suspicion of battery on a police officer and resisting or obstructing a police officer; Nicholas Ryan, 24, of San Mateo and Genevieve Jones, 27, of Berkeley and Robert Scott 39, of Oakland on suspicion of battery and violation of a Berkeley Municipal Code; Vincent Yochelson 23, of Oakland and Moira Vandewalker 21, of Albany on suspicion of a municipal code violation and wearing a mask while committing a criminal offense; Jonathan Dalili, 32, of Berkeley and Christopher Smith, 37, of Martinez, on suspicion of battery; Enrique Yarce, 22, of Santa Rosa in connection with battery, wearing a mask while committing a criminal offense, resisting arrest and violating a municipal code; Allyn Jensen 30, of San Francisco on suspicion of vandalism and wearing a mask while committing a criminal offense; Lee Robinson 68, “a Berkeley nomad,” on suspicion of public intoxication; and a 17-year-old with no city of residence listed on suspicion of battery.
Police say they plan to release photographs of “currently unidentified suspects” to the public soon and will ask for help to identify them and others. Those with information can call BPD at 510-981-5900. BPD has also created a website for those who wish to upload photos or videos.