Author Archives: Emilie Raguso

Emerson Elementary student finds gun, takes it to school

A classroom at Emerson Elementary in Berkeley (file photo). Photo: BUSD
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An Emerson Elementary student in Berkeley found a loaded gun and took it to school Monday, authorities have reported.

According to the Berkeley Police Department, an Emerson teacher discovered the student with the handgun. Staff took possession of the gun and called police to turn it in, said Lt. Dan Montgomery of BPD.

Montgomery said officers later responded to the boy’s home to learn more from him and his parents, “In large part to check on the safety and welfare of the child and to make sure there was no threat of violence in the future at the school.”

The boy told police he found the gun “near a neighborhood school while in the company of cousins.” Continue reading »

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Crime

Man charged after lewd acts with 5-year-old in Berkeley

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A worker at a Berkeley home has been charged with four felony sex crimes after the child of a cleaning woman at that home said he touched her inappropriately.

The 5-year-old girl told her mother what had happened and, the next day, told a trained interviewer of children that he had touched her once before, too.

On April 5, according to court papers, the girl was at a Berkeley home on Woolsey Street where her mother was working as a house cleaner.

She told her mother that “the ‘man in the hat’ just touched her vagina and buttocks,” police wrote in court documents.

The woman told police there was only one man in the home who generally wore a hat, and who her daughter identified as such. The mother later identified that man to police during a photo line-up. … Continue reading »

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Crime

Crime in Berkeley: Jaywalkers beware, flyaway drone damage, pilfered postage stamps, found ammo, more

Police say this Ford was used in Monday's robbery. Photo: BPD
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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.

From April 7-13, there were reports of eight robberies10 burglaries20 assaults or batteriesno weapon-involved calls and no sexual assaults, according to CrimeMapping.com. There were also 12 stolen vehicles16 disturbances and 29 auto break-ins or thefts from vehicles reported. Two sex crimes were reported to the University of California Police Department (UCPD). Arrested or charged individuals in this blotter are presumed innocent. Find our April 7-13 round-up below.

Recent public safety news

2 BOTCHED CAR THEFT ATTEMPTS AT BART A thief tried to steal a maroon 1994 Toyota Corolla while it was parked at the North Berkeley BART station between 4:15 a.m. and 9:45 p.m. April 14. The driver’s door lock and ignition were damaged. The same day, someone tried to steal another 1994 Toyota Corolla from the station between 8 a.m. and 6:40 p.m. The ignition wires were cut and the ignition switch was damaged.

STOLEN CROSS Someone stole a 12-inch brass crucifix worth $40 from 2223 Fulton, room H, sometime between March 10 and April 15, UCPD reported. It’s under investigation.

DRONE DAMAGE A security officer at the Doe Library on the UC Berkeley campus reported “damage to roof tiles caused by a fly away drone” April 20 at 5 p.m. The drone owner is listed as a 22-year-old male student. It’s under investigation, UCPD reports.

COFFEE COMMOTION? A female student reported being the victim of “battery via coffee” at about 10:50 a.m. Tuesday, April 26, at the Martin Luther King Jr. Student Union building on campus. A man in his 60s wearing brown clothing was reported to be the culprit. No further information was provided.

STEPPED UP TRAFFIC SAFETY ENFORCEMENT BPD plans to “step up pedestrian safety enforcement operations” Friday, April 29, with a focus on “pedestrian safety and collision causing factors involving motorists and pedestrians,” the department reported earlier this week. Police also said there will be more motorcycle officers on duty through June 31 “conducting enforcement and educational efforts based on data from prior collisions.” … Continue reading »

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UC Berkeley student arrested after fraternity rape report

The Phi Gamma Delta fraternity house on Piedmont Avenue
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Update, 4 p.m. The district attorney’s office declined to file charges in the case. According to office spokeswoman Teresa Drenick, “Based upon a review of the evidence presented by the Berkeley Police Department, we have declined to file criminal charges.” Berkeleyside removed the student’s name, and several identifying details, in light of this new information.

Original story, 7 a.m. Authorities have arrested a 20-year-old UC Berkeley student on suspicion of rape in connection with a case from earlier this year reported to have taken place at a fraternity party near campus.

The Berkeley Police Department arrested the young man at 7 a.m. Thursday after serving a search warrant at his fraternity house at 2395 Piedmont Ave., at Channing Way, authorities said.

UCPD identifies that location as Phi Gamma Delta, a fraternity that is not officially recognized by the CalGreeks organization.

Sgt. Andrew Frankel, BPD spokesman, said the arrest was in connection with “an on-going sexual assault investigation.”

According to a statement released by UCPD on Feb. 22, the victim had attended a party at a fraternity house in the 2300 block of Piedmont three days earlier, on Friday, Feb. 19. The sexual assault took place between midnight and 12:45 a.m. Saturday in a room at the fraternity, which was not named.

According to the UCPD statement, “a report was made to a Campus Security Authority who is required under the Federal Clery Act to report it to the campus Clery Compliance Officer. UCPD is in turn required to alert our community of the crime.” … Continue reading »

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Berkeley preview sheds new light on Gilman roundabouts

Members of the public got a look Wednesday night at plans to build two roundabouts at Gilman and Interstate 80. Photo: Emilie Raguso
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Early plans to build two large roundabouts at Interstate 80 and Gilman Street in Berkeley were on display for the public Wednesday night at the North Berkeley Senior Center.

The project — with an estimated $24 million construction cost — is slated to be complete in 2022, a representative told the dozens of attendees who perused information stations set up around the room.

“This is an area that has a lot of concerns with it,” David Early, principal at Berkeley-based community planning firm Placeworks, told the crowd. “It’s quite a ‘wild west’ kind of scene.”

Scroll down to see a simulation of the proposed circulation.

By the numbers, the problem is stark. Crash data presented Wednesday, from 2011-2013, showed significantly higher than average numbers of injury or fatal collisions, particularly on the north side of Gilman. On the west side off-ramp, those numbers were 80% higher than the state average. On the east side on-ramp, they were a whopping 177% above the state average.

South of the freeway, they were about 30% above the state average at both the on- and off-ramps.

The project involves the two roundabouts on either side of I-80, new sidewalks under the freeway, and a pedestrian and bike bridge similar to the one at Aquatic Park. Perhaps the most controversial elements of the project — in addition to the roundabouts themselves — are the location of the bike bridge, which makes a fairly large detour south before bringing users back up to Gilman, as well as plans to cut off access from Gilman to the frontage road on the east side of the freeway.  … Continue reading »

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Berkeley council votes to put minimum wage on ballot

The turnout was sparse for Tuesday night's council meeting, which included a vote on the minimum wage. Photo: Mark Coplan
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A Berkeley City Council majority voted Tuesday night to put an alternative minimum wage proposal on the November 2016 ballot they say will be more moderate than a community measure announced last week.

Councilman Laurie Capitelli — mayoral hopeful — put forward the alternative proposal and asked city staff to come back with a resolution city officials could put on the ballot. Council had been slated to vote to revise the city’s minimum wage ordinance Tuesday night, but instead voted in favor of the substitute motion from Capitelli.

Read more on the minimum wage from Berkeleyside.

The Capitelli proposal would take the minimum wage for all businesses in Berkeley to $15 an hour by October 2019. It is already slated to increase to $12.53 in October of this year. Under the proposed resolution put forward Tuesday night, this would be followed by annual increases each October to $13.25 in 2017 and $14.05 in 2018.

The initiative put forward last week would raise Berkeley’s minimum wage to $15 by October 2017.

Unlike many prior Berkeley council meetings focused on the minimum wage, the turnout Tuesday night was sparse. A handful of speakers asked council to move faster to help workers, while others asked for more time for small businesses to weigh in and adjust. … Continue reading »

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Crime

Sister of man charged with 2 murders takes the stand

Darnell Williams Jr. mugshot, courtesy of NBC Bay Area
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The older sister of a Berkeley man who could face the death penalty if found guilty of two fatal shootings in 2013 testified on his behalf Monday, but her testimony may have done more harm than good.

Chastity Williams, sister of Darnell Williams Jr., told the jury why she instructed her son — struck by a fragment from a bullet he said his uncle fired — not to talk to police about what he’d seen. She also disputed her son’s story that he would get “a whuppin” if he didn’t keep quiet.

“He fibs,” she said of her son, who was 7 at the time of shooting. As to why she told him not to speak with police, she said: “As a parent, I wanted to figure out what was going on first before Elliot spoke to anyone. He’s a kid. Why would I want to put my child through that?”

On cross-examination, however, Williams admitted to having told police her son was “very accurate.” She repeatedly changed her story and tried to explain inconsistencies in her statements. Direct examination, by the defense, lasted less than 15 minutes. Prosecutor John Brouhard then questioned her for nearly two hours on cross-examination.

Read complete coverage of the case.

Williams said her son made up the threat of a beating to try to stop authorities from questioning him after the Sept. 8, 2013, shooting that killed 22-year-old Anthony “Tone” Medearis III in West Berkeley. Police arrested Darnell Williams, then 22, near the scene. The two young men were both familiar faces in what some who live in the area call “the Waterfront” neighborhood and hung out with the same friends.

Defense attorney Darryl Billups, who called Chastity Williams, 27, to the stand, asked if she had been trying to protect her brother when she told her son not to speak with police. She said that had not been her goal.

When she walked up to the stand Monday morning, Williams gave a little wave and smile to her younger brother as he sat at the defense table. Seeing the friendly face was likely a change for the defendant, who has not had any apparent supporters in the courtroom over the past month. … Continue reading »

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Crime

Berkeley killings get spotlight in death penalty case

Anthony Medearis' aunt wore a lanyard and memorial photograph of her nephew to court this week. Photo: Emilie Raguso
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One month into the trial of a Berkeley man charged with two murders, who could face the death penalty, his defense attorneys are slated to begin to present evidence to the jury Monday.

Darnell Williams Jr., 25, is accused of killing 8-year-old Alaysha Carradine, who happened to be a guest at a sleepover at an apartment targeted by a man the prosecution has said was bent on revenge for the killing in Berkeley earlier that day — July 17, 2013 — of a close friend.

Less than two months later, Sept. 8, authorities say Williams opened fire on 22-year-old Anthony “Tone” Medearis III as Medearis ran from him, pleading for his life. The two were fixtures in the same West Berkeley neighborhood and hung out with the same group of friends. Authorities have said Williams planned to rob Medearis and considered him a snitch who deserved to die for talking to the police.

Alaysha’s killing — described by the prosecution as the intentional gunning down of children — horrified the broader Bay Area community. Medearis’ shooting, though heinous and senseless, did not strike the same chord. His family, a near-daily presence in the courtroom, has been the first to acknowledge it. But they’ve said they’ve come to see Medearis’ death as a path to justice for Alaysha.

“My baby was an angel,” said Medearis’ mother, Dolanda Medearis, during a recent break from court. “Had he [Williams] not killed him, he could have gotten away with killing that 8-year-old girl.” … Continue reading »

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Crime

Boyfriend charged with attempted murder after double shooting in Berkeley

Police watch over the scene where two people were shot on Tremont Street, near Prince Street, in Berkeley, on Wednesday, March 16, 2016. Photo: David Yee ©2016
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A San Jose man has been charged with shooting his girlfriend in the head and opening fire on her male friend as the two sat in a car in South Berkeley in mid-March.

Anthony Burton, 44, was charged Thursday by the Alameda County district attorney’s office with six felonies: two counts of attempted murder; corporal injury to a relationship partner; assault with a semiautomatic weapon; shooting at an occupied motor vehicle; and possession of a firearm by a felon.

According to court papers, Burton shot his girlfriend in the head, and her male friend “about five times in the face and body,” as they sat in a car on Tremont Street near Prince Street, not far from the Ashby BART station.

Both victims survived but are still recovering, police said last week. Police have not released many details about the case. According to court papers, investigators identified Burton as the shooter, and noted that he was in a dating relationship with the female victim.  … Continue reading »

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3 teens arrested after Berkeley student fights downtown

Police responded to downtown Berkeley on Thursday for youth fighting. Photo: Siciliana Trevino
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Is it just that time of year again? Three high-school-aged students were arrested Thursday after fights broke out among youth in downtown Berkeley, authorities said.

Berkeleyside was reporting similar news last year in April.

Lt. Alyson Hart, the Berkeley Police watch commander Thursday evening, said there had been some type of disturbance at lunch involving Berkeley High School students, leading school and police authorities to be on alert when BHS let out due to rumors that problems would continue.

Not long after school ended for the day, at 3:30 p.m., Hart said police received numerous reports of youth fighting downtown. There were multiple groups of students who were “running around everywhere.”

Originally, the BART Police asked for help to handle reports of fighting on the platform at the downtown Berkeley station.

“There were a bunch of little different skirmishes or reports,” Hart said. “Around City Hall also.” … Continue reading »

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Crime

Crime in Berkeley: Teen raped on Grizzly Peak, high-speed chase on Dohr, fake report of shooter on campus, more

A reader asked Berkeleyside: "Why are there 10 cop cars necessary  for this biz?" Photo: Dana Kleinhesselink
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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.

From March 31 to April 6, there were reports of six robberies19 burglaries11 assaults or batteriesthree weapon-involved calls and two sexual assaults, according to CrimeMapping.com. There were also eight stolen vehicles21 disturbances and 28 auto break-ins or thefts from vehicles reported. A sex crime, a burglary and three vehicle thefts were reported to the University of California Police Department (UCPD). Arrested or charged individuals in this blotter are presumed innocent. Find our March 31 to April 6 round-up below.

Recent public safety news

DISCONNECTING PHONES ON THE BART TRACKS Tuesday at about 11:30 p.m. officers responded to both Berkeley BART stations for a man walking on the tracks while intoxicated and disconnecting emergency phones along the way, the BART Police reported. “Power was shut down on both track ways, and medical personnel staged as officers eventually managed to safely detain the suspect in the underground tunnel/track way between the two stations. Officers determined the suspect was too intoxicated to care for himself, in addition to his trespassing on the track way, and placed him under arrest for both violations. As a precaution, medical personnel cleared the suspect before he was booked into the Berkeley City Jail. Due to this incident, trains were delayed for approximately 30 minutes; nothing unusual was located on the incident track way.” The man’s name was not released. … Continue reading »

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Crime

Berkeley police make arrest in double shooting

A car where two people were shot sits on Tremont Street near Prince Street, in Berkeley, on Wednesday, March 16, 2016. Photo: David Yee
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Authorities have arrested a 44-year-old transient man from San Jose in connection with a double shooting near the Ashby BART station in March that left a man and woman with serious injuries.

A deputy with the Sacramento County sheriff’s office arrested Anthony Burton on Tuesday at 3:30 a.m. after finding him asleep in his car, which had set off an alert from the officer’s automated license plate reader.

The officer saw that Burton was wanted in connection with an attempted homicide case from Berkeley, and took him into custody on the warrant. The vehicle, a 2008 Mazda 5, had been parked outside a Denny’s in Sacramento at 5120 Interstate Ave.

Sgt. Andrew Frankel of the Berkeley Police Department said Berkeley detectives later picked up Burton from the Sacramento County sheriff’s office. He was arrested on suspicion of two counts of attempted homicide. Frankel said he couldn’t share any details about the possible motive in the case, but confirmed the shooting was not random.  … Continue reading »

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6-story mixed-use building could replace Berkeley gym

24 Hour Fitness. Photo: Emilie Raguso
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Update, 5:55 p.m. Dana Ellsworth of the project team told Berkeleyside the gym will remain in place for three more years while the project team seeks permits.

Original post, 10 a.m. The days may be numbered for a popular gym in downtown Berkeley, in a nearly 100-year-old building on Addison Street, with an application submitted to the city that features a new vision for the future.

That vision could one day even include a cabaret or other type of entertainment venue, according to ideas put forward earlier this month by the development team. But where gym-goers will turn remains an unanswered question. There’s no indication they will be able to come back to Addison Street.

In a brief statement to the city dated Jan. 27, when project materials initially were submitted, Dana Ellsworth of property owner Ruegg & Ellsworth wrote, “We would like to demolish our existing commercial building and erect a new six story mixed use building…. with ground floor commercial space, an underground parking garage for twenty-four automobiles with a parking lift, and five stories of residential apartments for a total of fifty five units.”

A staffer at the gym, 24 Hour Fitness at 2072 Addison, said no one has let employees know what to expect. She came into work one day to see a large yellow sign posted outside about the project plans.

“Everybody’s asking me about it,” she said. “They’ve literally kept us in the dark.”

Berkeleyside has asked 24 Hour Fitness for comment but has not heard back.
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