UC Berkeley staffer suffers chemical burns in Wheeler Hall assault

Wheeler Hall. Photo: Wally Gobetz

A UC Berkeley employee was burned early Wednesday morning when a man she confronted in a bathroom hurled “caustic chemicals” at her, authorities report.

The woman had just gone into a bathroom in Wheeler Hall at 1:35 a.m. when she found a man inside. She told the man he had to leave because the building was closed, according to UCPD.

The man followed her out of the bathroom, then “threw a caustic chemical at her,” authorities said in a statement Wednesday morning. He then ran off.

The Berkeley Fire Department took the woman to a local emergency room for treatment of chemical burns. Police were unable to find the assailant, UCPD said.


Sgt. Nicolas Hernandez, UCPD spokesman, said the agency is not releasing the woman’s job or her condition due to the ongoing investigation.

Hernandez described campus staff as one big family, however, and said everyone is wishing the woman a speedy recovery.

Hernandez declined to say whether UCPD has leads in the case or whether there might be surveillance video that could help detectives identify the assailant, also due to the ongoing investigation.

Hernandez said he could not confirm the accuracy of a report over the police radio early Wednesday morning that identified the type of chemical that may have been used.

In response to a question from Berkeleyside, Hernandez indicated that this type of assault is not a common occurrence on campus.

“I’ve heard of it in my career before but I couldn’t tell you what the numbers are,” he said.

Update, 1:25 p.m. Berkeleyside reviewed police scanner activity from early Wednesday morning. The employee who was injured was identified as a janitor with UC Berkeley, and paramedics said the bottle of fluid used in the assault was “essentially ammonia concentrate,” according to the unconfirmed radio traffic. The woman received burns on her torso, according to the recordings.


The suspect was described as a white man in his 50s with a white beard and white hair. He was 5 foot 6 to 5 foot 7, had a “scruffy beard” and appeared to be homeless, according to the unconfirmed recordings.