Author Archives: Emilie Raguso

3 arrested, guns and meth found, in West Berkeley raid

Police recovered these items during an operation Thursday at Juan's Place in West Berkeley. Photo: BPD
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[Editor’s Note: This story was updated after publication with comments from Juan’s Place and additional information from the Berkeley Police Department.]

Three men were arrested during a narcotics operation at Juan’s Place in West Berkeley on Thursday morning.

Officer Byron White, a Berkeley Police spokesman, said the department’s Special Investigations Bureau “recovered several handguns, ammunition, drug paraphernalia, as well as a quantity of methamphetamine.”

White said he couldn’t share much information about the investigation, which took place at 941 Carleton St., because it remains in-progress.

That address is the location of popular Berkeley Mexican restaurant Juan’s Place.

White said three Berkeley men were arrested: 51-year-old Jorge Mejia, on suspicion of being a felon in possession of a firearm and ammunition, both felonies; 61-year-old Juan Mejia, on suspicion of possessing controlled substances and drug paraphernalia, which are misdemeanors, along with probation violation; and 57-year-old Oscar Medina, on an outstanding warrant.

According to online records from the Alameda County sheriff’s office, Jorge Mejia is an assistant manager at Juan’s Place, where the raid took place. Juan Mejia is listed as a restaurant employee. Both were booked into Berkeley Jail on Thursday.

Tony Mejia, manager at Juan’s, said the guns had been locked up in a safe and were not accessible to his brother, Jorge. He said their father had purchased some of those guns 30 years ago from a Berkeley Police officer, and that they had just been sitting in the safe ever since.

“I’m not a gun person,” he said. “They’re still in the box where my dad purchased them. We’re not doing those kinds of things here.” … Continue reading »

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Crime

Crime log: Narcotics operation, community session about shooting, checkpoint arrests, ‘Click it or Ticket’

Selected calls to the Berkeley Police, via CrimeMapping.com. Scroll down for detailed maps. Click the map above for 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 5-11, there were reports of 10 robberies19 burglariesseven assaults or batteriesseven weapon-involved calls and three sexual assaults, according to CrimeMapping.com. There were also five stolen vehicles18 disturbances and 24 auto break-ins or thefts from vehicles reported. An assault and a vehicle theft were reported on CrimeMapping to the University of California Police Department (UCPD). Arrested or charged individuals are presumed innocent. Find our May 5-11 round-up below.

Recent public safety news

POLICE ACTIVITY THURSDAY If you spotted police activity Thursday morning, May 26, in the 900 block of Carleton Street in West Berkeley, authorities say it was part of an ongoing narcotics investigation conducted by the Berkeley Police Department’s Special Investigations Bureau. Detectives were still at the scene at around 9:45 a.m. conducting an active investigation, according to BPD. A reader reporting seeing officers “wearing protective vests” who “had two men in handcuffs already, and seemed to be going in the back entrance” at Juan’s Place. Berkeleyside has asked for additional information from BPD.

COMMUNITY MEETING ABOUT SHOOTING Next week, Councilman Darryl Moore is holding a community meeting to discuss last week’s shooting at San Pablo Park. The meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, June 1, from 7-8:30 p.m. at the Frances Albrier Community Center in San Pablo Park, 2800 Park St. The meeting has been arranged to allow residents to “to discuss the shooting and what the city is doing to avoid any future incidents. As this is an active investigation, the Berkeley Police Department may be unable to share certain details in order to protect their investigation, but they will share what information they are able.” The victim remained in critical condition as of the last report from BPD. No arrests had been made, but police have been providing additional patrols around the park since the shooting. Read more on Berkeleyside. … Continue reading »

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Crime

Williams decides not to testify; defense rests

Rene C. Davidson Courthouse. Photo: Melati Citrawireja
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After suddenly announcing Wednesday that convicted murderer Darnell Williams Jr. would testify on his own behalf, the defense team backtracked Thursday morning with the brief announcement that it would instead rest its case.

The disappointment in the courtroom was palpable, as relatives and supporters of Williams’ two murder victims, along with other attorneys and interested spectators, had come to court to hear what he had to say.

At least some members of the jury appeared miffed they had made the trip to court for nothing.

“I knew your sucka ass weren’t going to get up there,” the sister of Anthony Medearis III — one of Williams’ two victims — yelled at him as she left the courtroom. Court staff told her she could not return for the remainder of the trial.  … Continue reading »

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Crime

Breaking: Convicted murderer says he’ll take the stand

Darnell Williams Jr. mugshot. Photo: ACSO
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Minutes after a forensic psychologist described the extensive and longstanding impulse-control problems exhibited by convicted murderer Darnell Williams Jr., he suddenly announced through his attorneys that he plans to take the stand in his own defense.

His attorneys said it wasn’t the first time they had discussed the subject, but were not expecting the announcement Wednesday, just as they were about to rest their case in the “penalty phase” of the trial.

At the end of testimony, the Alameda County jury that found Williams guilty earlier this month of two murders will make a sentencing recommendation to Judge Jeffrey Horner: either the death penalty or life in prison without the possibility of parole.

The two-person defense team had just completed questioning the woman they said would be their final witness — forensic psychologist Gretchen White — when the attorneys and judge said they needed to have a brief discussion out of the presence of the jury.

Read complete coverage of the case.

The judge had already told jurors they would be excused until Tuesday morning, when attorneys would present their closing statements. … Continue reading »

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Crime

Convicted killer: ‘I been in the streets since I was 9’

Darnell Williams Jr. mugshot. Photo: ACSO
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Despite knowing he would be arrested as a result, the father of a convicted murderer came to court Tuesday to ask for mercy for his son, who could face the death penalty after being found guilty earlier this month of gunning down two people, including a child, in 2013.

Darnell Williams Sr., 49, told the Alameda County jury charged with recommending a sentence for his son that he had not been a good father. He was locked up more than a dozen times, was in a prison gang called the Black Guerrilla Family, and has been addicted to drugs, including crack cocaine. He dropped out of high school after 10th grade.

The elder Williams, who is currently on parole, said he wanted to share “anything I can say that could save my son. I’m here to see and apologize to my son… for not being a good dad. And I was a drug addict and I stayed in prison.”

He said he missed his son’s birth because he was “on drugs real bad,” and regretted missing his son’s life and his football games.

“I never wanted [him] to be nothing like me,” he said.

The elder Williams said he expected to be taken into custody — on a warrant for a parole violation — after his testimony. He was on the stand for less than 15 minutes. After he stepped down, he looked at his son and mouthed the words, “Love you, man.” Officers from the district attorney’s office took the elder Williams into custody outside the courtroom after he hugged his brother, who had testified earlier in the day. … Continue reading »

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Crime

Attorney: Williams says ‘death sentence is fine with him’

Darnell Williams Jr. mugshot. Photo: ACSO
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A Berkeley man found guilty of two murders earlier this month, who could face the death penalty, asked an Alameda County Superior Court judge Monday to dismiss the jury and make his own ruling on sentencing.

Both attorneys for 25-year-old Darnell Williams Jr. strongly advised him not to waive his rights to a jury trial, they said. But Williams had other ideas.

“He would like the proceedings to end,” defense attorney Deborah Levy told Judge Jeffrey Horner on Monday afternoon. He said he would waive his rights and accept the judge’s sentence, said Levy, adding, “The death sentence is fine with him.”

Defense attorney Darryl Billups told the judge he had advised Williams he “didn’t think it was a good idea” to waive the jury trial, which is designed to lead to a sentencing recommendation for the judge. The jury is slated to decide between the death penalty and life in prison without parole.

The jury was not present when the attorneys made the request to Horner on their client’s behalf. … Continue reading »

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Crime

‘Penalty trial’ begins in Berkeley-Oakland murder case

Darnell Williams Jr. mugshot. Photo: ACSO
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Darnell Williams Jr., found guilty earlier this month of two murders and several special circumstances, had a history of violent attacks both in and out of prison that make the death penalty the appropriate sentence for him, the prosecution said Monday.

In the next phase of the case, attorneys are set to present evidence to show aggravating and mitigating circumstances they hope will help an Alameda County jury decide what sort of sentence to recommend for 25-year-old Williams. He could face the death penalty or life in prison without the possibility of parole.

In 2009, nearly four years before the 2013 murders of Alaysha Carradine and Anthony “Tone” Medearis III, Williams tried to shoot down a childhood friend on Oregon Street after his own father ordered him to do it, prosecutor John Brouhard told the jury Monday during opening statements.

Read complete coverage of the case.

That was followed by three attacks on fellow inmates while he was locked up, the violation of his parole terms due to gun possession once he was released, and the discovery of a long shank in his cell during a surprise search once he was sent back to jail after his arrest in September 2013, Brouhard said.

Williams had been out of prison for about a month, following the earlier shooting attempt in Berkeley, when he gunned down 8-year-old Alaysha Carradine at an Oakland sleepover.  … Continue reading »

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170 new units approved in West Berkeley

The proposed view at San Pablo Avenue and Jones Street. Image: Pyatok Architects
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A sprawling mixed-use complex on San Pablo Avenue won approval Thursday night from Berkeley’s zoning board.

Neighbors turned up in droves for the May 12 Zoning Adjustments Board meeting. Most of those who spoke during public comment lobbied for what they said was a more efficient alternative created by three community members to reduce the impacts. Supporters of the project, some of whom said they live nearby, were also in attendance. They said the time is now for more housing, and that the alternative plan was not realistic.

See more real estate news on Berkeleyside.

The board did not vote on the project until 11 p.m., though 1500 San Pablo Ave. was the only item on the action calendar. Seven board members voted in favor while two — Igor Tregub and Shoshana O’Keefe — abstained.

Tregub had tried to win support for an alternate motion that directed the applicant, Amir Massih of 4Terra, to work with neighbors and come back later with a project that was more compatible with its surroundings. He could not get a majority vote in favor, however. O’Keefe said she liked a lot about the project but had too many questions about traffic impacts to vote Thursday night.  … Continue reading »

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Crime

Crime in Berkeley: Man asks for his own arrest, gun found in car after medical cannabis buy, fraud arrest, more

Selected calls to the Berkeley Police, via CrimeMapping.com. Scroll down for detailed maps. Click the map above for 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 April 28 to May 4, there were reports of two robberies14 burglaries11 assaults or batteriesfour weapon-involved calls and one sexual assault, according to CrimeMapping.com and other BPD data. There were also seven stolen vehicles17 disturbances and 20 auto break-ins or thefts from vehicles reported. An assault, a burglary, a vehicle theft and a sex crime were reported on CrimeMapping to the University of California Police Department (UCPD). Arrested or charged individuals are presumed innocent. Find the April 28 to May 4 round-up below several more recent items.

Recent public safety news

GUN ARREST AFTER CANNABIS DISPENSARY PICK-UP On May 8 at about 8:45 p.m. a BPD officer stopped a car at Telegraph Avenue and Parker Street that had “marijuana smoke emanating from the windows,” said BPD Sgt. Andrew Frankel, department spokesman. The officer spoke with four people in the vehicle “who said they were in Berkeley to pick up medical marijuana at a dispensary.” The officer searched the car and found a loaded handgun in the driver’s purse. She said she recently bought it online and that it was unregistered, according to BPD. The 28-year-old Antioch woman, Sarah Hezlitt, was arrested. She has been released from custody and is scheduled to enter a plea Tuesday at the Wiley W. Manuel Courthouse in downtown Oakland.

ARREST ME, PLEASE? A man called into the BART Dispatch Center on May 7 at about 3:20 p.m. “and stated that he had a stay away order from BART and wanted to be placed under arrest.” The man, who was calling from the downtown Berkeley BART station, was placed under arrest and taken to the Berkeley City Jail where he was booked in connection with the stay-away order. Stephan Benjamin, 35, remains in custody at Santa Rita Jail. He appears to have been sentenced, according to sheriff’s office records online. He’s not scheduled for another hearing until April 2017.

COCAINE SALES AND FIREARM ARREST Berkeley police arrested Leon Johnson, 34, on April 27 in connection with a slew of drug and firearm possession violations. Johnson, who was arrested in Oakland, remains in custody at Santa Rita Jail with a bail of $240,000. Among other issues, Johnson was arrested on suspicion of possession for sale of cocaine, transporting a controlled substance for sale, and sales of more than 28.5 grams of cocaine; being a felon in possession of a firearm and carrying a loaded firearm as well as numerous other firearm-related violations; and receiving known stolen property worth more than $950, identity theft and possessing the identification of 10 or more people with intent to defraud. He is scheduled for a motion hearing May 20 at the René C. Davison Courthouse in Oakland. Berkeleyside has requested additional information from the district attorney’s office. … Continue reading »

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Community

Thousands in Berkeley, Oakland hit by power outage

The PG&E outage map as of approximately 9:55 p.m.
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Update, May 16: PG&E spokeswoman Tamar Sarkissian told us the cause of the Friday/Saturday power outage was a vehicle that crashed into a PG&E pole in the 2500 block of Mabel, at Parker. All customers had their power restored by 2:37 a.m. Saturday.

Original story: More than 4,000 PG&E customers in Berkeley and North Oakland were without power Friday night.

Nearly 4,500 customers lost power at 9:46 p.m., according to PG&E’s outage map.

The cause as of 9:53 p.m. was listed as “unknown,” with a crew having been assigned to assess the damage.

The estimated time for restoration is 12:15 a.m. Saturday. … Continue reading »

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Bike lane opens in Berkeley by near-fatal crash site; charges filed against driver, who police say was high

The new bike lane on Fulton Street in Berkeley. Photo: Kent Chen
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Update, 11:50 a.m. The Alameda County district attorney’s office charged Berwick Haynes on May 2 with driving under the influence of drugs and causing great bodily injury. If convicted, he could be sent to prison. A warrant has been issued for Haynes’ arrest. Berkeleyside has asked BPD if there is any further information to release.

Update, 10:30 a.m. According to the spokeswoman from the Alameda County district attorney’s office, DUI charges have been filed against the driver. Berkeleyside has requested documentation of the charges and will update this post if that is provided. Currently, the case does not appear in county records online.

Original story: A new “protected” bike lane — set off from vehicular traffic — has been completed this week in Berkeley on Fulton Street with a ribbon cutting scheduled for 8 a.m. Thursday just in time for Bike to Work Day.

Advocacy group Bike East Bay, which has been pushing hard for the lane since last year, renewed calls for its creation in February after Berkeley scientist and new mother Megan Schwarzman was nearly killed while cycling nearby.

Schwarzman’s husband, Mike Wilson, addressed the Berkeley City Council in March and asked for speedy action. (He and his wife are avid cyclists and were members of Bike East Bay at the time of the crash.)

“You can imagine the strain on our family as Meg struggled to live through the first 12 hours, with a bleeding liver, 20 fractured ribs, a smashed pelvis, two partially collapsed lungs, and complex facial fractures,” he told council. “Let’s learn from what happened here and implement the long-overdue improvements in bicycle and pedestrian safety that are already embodied in Berkeley’s bicycle plan and Downtown plan. Meg and I will thank you, as will the thousands of cyclists and pedestrians who rely on your decisions to keep them and their families safe.”

Scroll down for a video of what it’s like to ride in the new lane.

Wilson also noted that the driver who ran over his wife was impaired, which “contributed to the severity of the collision.” But he said that better traffic planning would be critical in making a difference in the long run as far as safety for cyclists and drivers.

On May 2, 47-year-old Berwick Haynes was charged with driving under the influence of drugs and causing great bodily injury, according to the Alameda County district attorney’s office. According to the police report, acquired by Berkeleyside through a Public Records Act request, Haynes had bought medical marijuana from the Berkeley Patients Group dispensary shortly before the crash, which took place Feb. 2 at about 5 p.m. … Continue reading »

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Update: Homeless man robbed at City Hall by teen with replica pellet gun

2180Milvia
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Update, May 12, 5:20 p.m. The Police Department has just released some additional details about Wednesday’s robbery, which took place — as it turns out — in the public men’s restroom outside City Hall to the west. (The initial report from police was that this took place “in the basement bathroom.” But things can change as more information becomes available.)

A homeless man was using the bathroom when three people robbed him, as Berkeleyside previously reported. “During the confrontation, the armed suspect struck the victim with the handgun — a realistic looking plastic pellet gun — and the pellet gun broke apart from the impact. The suspects fled,” according to police.

The man flagged down a BPD officer after seeing one of the teens run into the Berkeley High School campus: “A Berkeley High School employee, unaware of the robbery, contacted the suspect, whom he had followed into a building, and escorted him out of the building, and off the campus grounds, where he saw the School Resource Officer. The suspect was identified and arrested, and taken to Juvenile Hall. The victim suffered minor injuries, and declined medical attention. The investigation in this case is continuing.”

Original story, May 11, 2:08 p.m. Police arrested a 16-year-old Berkeley boy Tuesday morning after a robbery at gunpoint in the City Hall basement bathroom, authorities have reported.

The incident took place at 2180 Milvia St. where the city of Berkeley’s main offices are located. A reader saw police at Berkeley High School, across the street from city hall, and asked Berkeleyside to find out more. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley names iCANN as next cannabis dispensary

There was a full house at the Berkeley City Council on Tuesday night for the selection of the city's fourth medical cannabis dispensary. Photo: Emilie Raguso
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Tuesday night, the Berkeley City Council unanimously named the iCANN Health Center on Sacramento Street as the city’s fourth medical cannabis dispensary.

In what was to many a surprise move, council also voted to have city staff and the Berkeley Planning Commission look at changing the law to increase the number of dispensaries in Berkeley from four to six. Officials said there were so many qualified applicants, which evidenced such a strong need, that an increase would make sense.

iCANN, which is focused on providing medical cannabis to seniors, was among six dispensaries to present applications to the city Tuesday. Their supporters also had a chance to lobby council during public comment.

Read complete Berkeleyside coverage of medical cannabis.

Several council members expressed strong support — if the law is changed to allow for more dispensaries — for an application from Amoeba Music’s owners to open the Berkeley Compassionate Care Collective on Telegraph Avenue next to the iconic record store.

The voters of Berkeley approved the idea of a fourth dispensary with Measure T in 2010.

(In the video below, iCANN supporters, including proprietor Sue Taylor on the right, react to the unanimous vote. Taylor, a Berkeley resident, sits on the board of the Alameda County Advisory Commission on Aging.)  … Continue reading »

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