Berkeley police: Woman jumped out of moving vehicle to escape sexual assault

A young woman held captive in a sex offender’s van early Tuesday morning — while he drove around Berkeley and demanded she perform oral sex on him — jumped out the window of the moving vehicle to escape, court papers reveal.

Thursday, Berkeleyside reported the arrest of 60-year-old parolee and out-of-compliance sex offender Whittier Buck Buchanan. But few details were available until later in the day when the Alameda County district attorney’s office provided documents from the case. The Berkeley Police Department has not commented on the matter, but Berkeleyside has requested information. This story will be updated if it is provided.

According to court documents, the woman was picked up sometime before 3:35 a.m. at Telegraph and Durant avenues in the Southside neighborhood near UC Berkeley, police wrote.

“The victim stated that Buchanan would not let her leave the vehicle, continued to drive her around the City of Berkeley, and made demands that she orally copulate him before he would allow her to leave the vehicle,” according to police. “The victim feared that she was going to be raped so she jumped out the side window of Buchanan’s moving vehicle on Monterey.”


Neighbors in the 1000 block of Monterey Avenue in North Berkeley heard the woman screaming and called police for help, according to unconfirmed scanner traffic reviewed by Berkeleyside.

A short time later, BPD Sgt. Dave Marble stopped Buchanan about 1.5 miles away at Hearst and West streets, according to court papers. Police were able to track him because he held onto the woman’s phone when he fled the scene, according to the scanner.

Officers who searched Buchanan turned up the woman’s cellphone, methamphetamine and a meth pipe, and a condom. Police arrested him after the young woman who had been in his van identified him as her assailant, according to court documents.

Police wrote that Buchanan has been living in the 2700 block of Dana Street, between Derby and Ward streets, and not far from Willard Middle School, for at least five weeks. His driver’s license, too, has the Dana Street address.

Police said, in court documents, Buchanan admitted he registered with the state sex offender database as a homeless Richmond resident despite actually living in Berkeley.


Berkeleyside readers said, in the comments section Thursday, there had been discussion on private social network Nextdoor of a man spotted in the Elmwood neighborhood in late April who was “caught on video casing cars and property.” One reader wrote that, “At that time, the officer had no cause to arrest him and was later sorry that he had no cause so that this could have been avoided. Photos/video taken by the Nextdoor member and the photo in this story are a match.”

The Alameda County district attorney’s office charged Buchanan with three felonies Thursday: kidnapping to commit a sex crime, along with a special allegation identifying him as a “habitual sex offender”; assault with the intent to commit a sex crime; and failure to register as a sex offender after an address change. The special allegation notes that Buchanan has convictions for two incidents of forced oral copulation involving a child under 14, also known as lewd acts with a child, and three forcible rapes from a 1996 case in Alameda County. Special allegations can increase how long someone is incarcerated.

According to the state Megan’s Law sex offender database, Buchanan was released from prison in 2014. At the time of his release, according to a state assessment, he was ranked a “2,” meaning authorities believed he had a low- to moderate-risk of offending again. Another law enforcement site describes that risk level as “average.” (The highest-risk offenders are category 10.)

Buchanan, whose listed occupation is “salesman,” is set for an attorney and plea hearing Friday at 9 a.m. at Wiley Manuel Courthouse in downtown Oakland, according to online records from the sheriff’s office. He is being held without bail.