Author Archives: Emilie Raguso

Schools

Fundraiser, vigil planned for drowned Berkeley student

Efe is remembered as a talented athlete. Photo: Ustenci family
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The Berkeley Unified School District has announced a vigil and fundraiser for Efe Ustenci, who drowned earlier this week in Placer County while on a trip with friends.

The fundraiser to help pay for the 17-year-old’s burial costs has already raised more than $3,600 in approximately an hour. Its goal is $10,000.

A vigil at Berkeley High School has been planned for Saturday, June 25, from 5-6-30 p.m. in the courtyard. The school district had counselors on campus Friday to help offer support.

Wrote BHS Principal Sam Pasarow in the email about the vigil and fundraiser, sent Friday at 9 p.m.: “Please join us as we mourn the loss of Efejon Ustenci, and also celebrate his life.” … Continue reading »

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Fire at former Sliderbar in downtown Berkeley

BFD responded to a fire at the former Sliderbar location 2124 Center St. Photo: Paul Kealoha-Blake
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The Berkeley Fire Department has responded to a fire on Center Street in downtown Berkeley that caused the evacuation of several buildings and is backing up traffic in the area.

The fire, reported at about 3:30 p.m., took place at 2124 Center St. between Shattuck Avenue and Oxford Street.

Donna McCracken, deputy fire chief, said the fire broke out in a wall at ground level in the commercial building.

Firefighters had been able to knock down the fire by putting water on it, but were having difficulty accessing its source due to the tight quarters.

Traffic was jammed up on Center between Shattuck and Oxford, McCracken said.

Firefighters remained on scene as of about 4:15 p.m. to make sure the fire had been extinguished. … Continue reading »

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Recent Berkeley High grad, 17, dies in drowning

Efe Ustenci (attribution unknown)
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Update, June 24, 10:11 p.m. Read about the vigil and fundraiser that have been set up for Efe.

Original story, June 23, 2:07 p.m. The Berkeley community is mourning the tragic death Wednesday of Efejon Ustenci, who graduated with his Berkeley High School class less than a week ago.

Placer County sheriff’s office spokeswoman Dena Erwin said the 17-year-old, who lived in Berkeley, died in Long Lake. The lake is near Soda Springs, west of Lake Tahoe. She confirmed the teenager died from an apparent drowning and said his body has been recovered, but said no other information was immediately available because the coroner’s investigation is still underway.

Berkeley Unified School District spokesman Mark Coplan said mental health counseling services will be available at Berkeley High on Friday for anyone who needs to drop in for support.

Scroll down to the bottom of the story to read BHS Principal Sam Pasarow’s message to the community.

Efe had been planning to attend Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo in the fall, according to his Facebook page.

Friends mourned Efe’s death online.

Wrote Dante Ryan on Thursday morning: “I just heard seconds ago what happened, and I am mortified. I didn’t know you as deeply as I could have, but I did know what a beautiful soul you were. I was blessed to have class with you all 4 years of high school, and your positive attitude always brought the classroom up. You were always a unifying force. A smart, kind, accepting person. Always supportive of me and my dreams as I was you and yours. This is a sad morning.”  … Continue reading »

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Crime

Berkeley man charged after rape attempt, death threats

Alameda County Superior Court 5/29/15 Photo: Melati Citrawireja
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A Berkeley man has been charged with three felonies after authorities say he tied up a woman with an electrical cord and tried to rape her.

Police say, according to court papers, the man and woman knew each other. The man was identified as Michael Bishop, 28, of Berkeley. The woman’s name was not released due to privacy laws related to the nature of the charges.

Neighbors on California Street called police Friday at about 6:50 p.m. after hearing a woman “yelling like she was being hit,” according to court papers. Police responded to the apartment for the domestic dispute and could hear a man and woman yelling inside.

When officers knocked on the door and announced themselves, a woman responded from inside: “He’s raping me!” and “Get in here!” according to court documents. … Continue reading »

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Crime

Berkeley crime log: Car crash follows Senior Streak, confiscated swords, water rescue drill, stolen golf carts

Selected calls to the Berkeley Police, via CrimeMapping.com. Scroll down for detailed maps. Click the map above for the list. (Click "show crime report" to see the list.) See the map key here.
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This overview of recent crime in Berkeley is based on reports to the Berkeley Police unless otherwise noted. Share photos, videos and tips by emailing crime@berkeleyside.com or on Facebook and TwitterDon’t assume someone else will alert us. We rely on readers to help us stay informed.

SNAPSHOT From June 2-8, there were reports of two robberies15 burglaries13 assaults or batteriesthree weapon-involved calls and one sexual assault, according to CrimeMapping.com. There were also 14 stolen vehicles15 disturbances and 29 auto break-ins or thefts from vehicles reported. Two sex crimes and one weapons call, among other crimes, were reported on CrimeMapping to the University of California Police Department (UCPD). Arrested or charged individuals are presumed innocent. Find the June 2-8 round-up below several more recent items.

Recent public safety news

BAG GRAB ON COLLEGE A local resident told Berkeleyside on Twitter about a “grab, run & chase” on Woolsey Street between College and Benvenue avenues Thursday, June 16, at about 10 p.m. The victim — who lives in the neighborhood — was “shaken but appears OK,” said Peter Sussman, who was nearby after the crime took place. The man was on his way home from work when robbers struck; he clung to his bag, which held his computer, and chased after the bandits when the strap broke. There were three other robberies in Berkeley that day, according to CrimeMapping.com. Tune into Berkeleyside’s next crime blotter for details.

SENIOR STREAK AT BHS PRECEDES CAR CRASH INVOLVING STUDENTS Earlier this month, June 9, the annual “Senior Streak” tradition at Berkeley High took place just before a car crash involving students that sent one of them to the hospital.

According to an email from BHS Principal Sam Pasarow, “a Berkeley High student was driving on Bancroft and Martin Luther King Jr. Way. The student lost control of the car, and it struck several parked cars on the eastern side of MLK Jr. Way. In one of the parked cars was another student, who was taken to the hospital with possible injuries. Berkeley Police Officers responded to the scene immediately and the Berkeley High School Health Center provided medical care for the student who was in the parked car at the time of the collisions.”  … Continue reading »

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Government

Grand jury dings city of Berkeley on email transparency

Rene C. Davidson Courthouse. Photo: Emilie Raguso
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An Alameda County grand jury has criticized the city of Berkeley’s approach to municipal emails, which are automatically purged after 90 days unless employees manually take steps to save them.

The grand jury report, released Tuesday, noted that Berkeley is one of just four cities in Alameda County that does not automatically archive emails and keep them for the two years required by the state for most public records.

The report urged the retention of all city emails for at least two years.

According to the report, city of Berkeley employees “must examine all email they receive with the complicated rules of the PRA [Public Records Act] in mind. They must then take the time to individually save or print each public record prior to its being automatically purged from the email server after 90 days.”Continue reading »

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Police

Man taken to Highland after fall into moving vehicle

Police responded to a traffic incident Monday at San Pablo and Cedar after a man in the median fell into a city-owned vehicle as it passed him. Image: Google Maps
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A man standing on a West Berkeley median fell into a city-owned vehicle in the roadway and was taken to the hospital with serious injuries Monday, authorities said.

The man was standing on the center divider on San Pablo Avenue near Cedar Street when he fell, said Sgt. Andrew Frankel of the Berkeley Police Department, “striking a city vehicle that was passing.” (Update: A witness at the scene said the man appeared to be a panhandler.)

The man’s injuries appeared serious and he was taken to Highland Hospital in Oakland with an apparent head injury at about 1:30 p.m.

A local business owner said he saw lots of police in the area in front of pet supply store Animal Farm, as well as a crime scene investigation van, around 2:30 p.m.

Not sure if it was serious, but certainly looked it,” he said. “I came back around 4:45 and it was back to normal.”Continue reading »

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2 stabbed, 1 sought after dispute at Berkeley park

A police officer responding to the stabbing at the park crashed into a vehicle at University and Acton, police said. Photo: Daniel McPartlan
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Two people were sent to the hospital Saturday after a stabbing at a Berkeley park next to the popular downtown farmer’s market.

One man was stabbed in the chest, and received injuries that appeared potentially life threatening, and another had a cut to the arm.

One local resident asked Berkeleyside to find out what had taken place after she saw “multiple police cars, yellow crime scene tape everywhere and … someone loaded into an ambulance” at the park. Others noted the increased police presence and wanted to know more.Continue reading »

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Crime

Berkeley crime log: People’s Park rape, public defender’s community fair, bank robber sentenced for murder, more

Selected calls to the Berkeley Police, via CrimeMapping.com. Scroll down for detailed maps. Click the map above for the list. (Click "show crime report" to see the list.) See the map key here.
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This overview of recent crime in Berkeley is based on reports to the Berkeley Police unless otherwise noted. Share photos, videos and tips by emailing crime@berkeleyside.com or on Facebook and TwitterDon’t assume someone else will alert us. We rely on readers to help us stay informed.

SNAPSHOT From May 26 to June 1, there were reports of three robberies21 burglaries23 assaults or batteriestwo weapon-involved calls and two sexual assaults to BPD, according to CrimeMapping.com. There were also six stolen vehicles10 disturbances and 27 auto break-ins or thefts from vehicles reported. Two sex crimes, an assault and a burglary, among other crimes, were reported on CrimeMapping to the University of California Police Department (UCPD). Arrested or charged individuals are presumed innocent. Find the May 26 to June 1 round-up below several more recent items.

Recent public safety news

STOLEN GOLF CARTS Three golf carts at Civic Center Park, rented for the Bay Area Book Festival, were stolen June 3, the night before the popular festival began. Four of them had been rented to help distribute items to 40 different venues. Said Lisa Bullwinkel, who helped organize the event, “What a surprise on Saturday morning when they were gone. Apparently, my hired security guard was overwhelmed by a band of kids from Berkeley High who came off the campus around 9PM Friday and took off with two of the carts. One kid drove one into a concrete bollard, knocking off the front fender, before taking off.”

Bullwinkel said police found one of the carts nearby and returned it. But two more were stolen later that night. “Over the course of the week,” she told Berkeleyside, “they were reported in several different places, although by the time anyone showed up, they’d been moved.  It was whack-a-mole with golf carts! Two were finally tracked down. The BPD confiscated one and put it into their corporate yard. The other had a flat tire and was recovered the next day. The third is still missing, so if anyone sees a green Cresco golf cart around, please contact Lisa@BayBookFest.org.” … Continue reading »

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Large truck overturns in Berkeley Hills; driver extricated

A truck overturned Thursday on Glendale in Berkeley. Photo: Courtesy of Battalion Chief Paul Cavagnaro
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A large truck hauling sand in the North Berkeley Hills overturned Thursday afternoon, and bystanders had to extricate the driver, who was taken to the hospital, authorities said.

Deputy Fire Chief Donna McCracken said the truck had been hauling sand while driving down Glendale Avenue when it “lost its brakes” around 1:30 p.m.

In an emergency maneuver, the driver steered up onto a private driveway at La Loma Avenue to stop the vehicle.

McCracken said the truck struck a parked car and retaining wall, causing damage, before it rolled onto its side.  … Continue reading »

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Community

Authorities clear out Gilman homeless camp in Berkeley

A homeless couple sleeps as Berkeley city officials watch Berkeley and Caltrans work crews clear out a homeless encampment near the Gilman Street interchange of I-80, in Berkeley, on Thursday, June 16, 2016. Photo: David Yee
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In a coordinated effort, workers from Caltrans, the California Highway Patrol and the city of Berkeley cleared out a large homeless encampment on Gilman Street near the I-80 freeway on Thursday.

It’s the latest chapter in a struggle that has been going on for years between homeless denizens who have set up their tents on Gilman in West Berkeley, and authorities who say the squalid conditions that result cannot be left unchecked.

Jim Hynes, with the Berkeley city manager’s office, said homeless outreach, city maintenance crews, mental health workers and environmental health staff were all on the scene to help out. He estimated that five containers of syringes, some 250 needles, had been removed, along with numerous bottles of human urine.

“It’s not a pretty sight, that’s for sure,” he said.  … Continue reading »

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$50,000 reward offered by FBI to find ‘prolific’ rapist, killer

Authorities are hoping the public can help identify "a violent serial burglar, rapist, and murderer who terrorized multiple communities in California throughout the 1970s and 1980s." Image: FBI
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Federal and local authorities launched a national campaign Wednesday to ask the public for help to find a man they believe is responsible for 12 homicides and 45 rapes in California, and more than 125 home burglaries, between 1976 and 1986.

The FBI is offering a $50,000 reward for tips that lead to the arrest, capture and conviction of the man known at various times as the “Golden State Killer,” the “Original Night Stalker” and the “East Area Rapist” — because his crimes began in the eastern district of Sacramento.

The FBI announced the reward Wednesday, along with the launch of a multimedia campaign, and is hoping the broad effort will help bring the man to justice.

“He’s got to be one of the most prolific criminals when you think of the other murder cases that are connected and all of the rape cases and God know what else we don’t know about,” said Ray Biondi, a retired detective with the Sacramento County sheriff’s office, as part of the FBI statement released Wednesday.

According to the FBI, the man began committing crimes in the Sacramento area, where he committed 31 sexual assaults and two homicides from 1976 to 1978. Forty years later, authorities are still seeking clues. … Continue reading »

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Crime

Crime log: Rape reported at dorm, actor surrenders after near-fatal crash, arrests follow robberies, more

Selected calls to the Berkeley Police, via CrimeMapping.com. Scroll down for detailed maps. Click the map above for the list. (Click "show crime report" to see the list.) See the map key here.
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This overview of recent crime in Berkeley is based on reports to the Berkeley Police unless otherwise noted. Share photos, videos and tips by emailing crime@berkeleyside.com or on Facebook and TwitterDon’t assume someone else will alert us. We rely on readers to help us stay informed.

SNAPSHOT From May 19-25, there were reports of six robberies19 burglaries18 assaults or batteriesthree weapon-involved calls and two sexual assaults, according to CrimeMapping.com. There were also 12 stolen vehicleseight disturbances and 23 auto break-ins or thefts from vehicles reported. A robbery and a burglary, among other crimes, were reported on CrimeMapping to the University of California Police Department (UCPD). Arrested or charged individuals are presumed innocent. Find the May 19-25 round-up below several more recent items.

Recent public safety news

ROBBERY AT ASHBY BART A man took multiple pairs of sunglasses from a vendor at the Ashby BART flea market, then pushed the vendor to the ground and fled, the BART Police report. The robbery happened Sunday, June 12, at about 3:10 p.m. The man took the sunglasses without paying and tried to leave the booth. The vendor tried to stop him but was shoved to the ground. Authorities said the vendor was not, however, injured during the encounter. Police searched the area but could not find the robber, who was described as a black man with short black hair, 40 years old and 180-200 pounds, who was wearing a black T-shirt and black shorts.

“POSSIBLE KIDNAPPING” REPORTED NEAR BERKELEY BORDER South Berkeley neighbors were on alert last week, June 8, when police responded to 65th and Herzog streets, in North Oakland, for a report of a possible kidnapping. Berkeleyside kept readers informed on Facebook, and police put out numerous alerts about the incident. OPD said the report came in at about 9:15 a.m. about a possible kidnapping in the 1000 block of 65th. Ultimately, the teenage victim was found safe and the person believed to the responsible, a man in his 20s, was arrested. Several Berkeley Police officers helped block traffic in the area and look for the suspect during the incident. BPD spokesman Sgt. Andrew Frankel confirmed today, June 15, this was not related to several kidnapping attempts in Berkeley that began last fall.

NATIONAL NIGHT OUT Registration is open for the 2016 National Night Out celebration in Berkeley, which is scheduled for Tuesday, Aug. 2. The Berkeley Police Department describes the event as “an annual community-building campaign that promotes police-community partnerships and neighborhood camaraderie to make our neighborhoods safer, better places to live.” Last year, more than 100 neighborhood, business and community groups around Berkeley took part in the event. See the registration form here; the deadline to file it is July 26. … Continue reading »

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