Author Archives: Emilie Raguso

Update: Berkeley church says 3-alarm fire caused by roof work, crews still on scene, streets closed

Fire on Channing at the First Congregational Church. Photo: Ted Friedman
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Update, 5 p.m. Authorities say 94 children and 14 staffers were evacuated during Friday’s three-alarm fire at the First Congregational Church on Channing Way in Berkeley.

The fire was declared under control at 3:20 p.m. but had not been extinguished, Berkeley Fire Chief Gil Dong said during a 4 p.m. briefing. Firefighters were still working to put out hotspots.

He said crews would remain on scene throughout the evening and into tomorrow.

Scroll down for photographs of the fire shared by many community members.

Dong said the cause of the fire remains unknown and the investigation could not be carried out until the conditions are safe. He said Channing Way and Durant Avenue will be blocked off tomorrow, and could affect traffic for the scheduled Cal football game.

Dong said authorities are concerned about potential collapses, particularly in the chimney.  … Continue reading »

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Crime

Richmond police chase ends in Berkeley with crash, arrest

A car crashed on the basketball court at Strawberry Creek Park during a police chase Thursday. Photo: Citizen reporter
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Update, 1:25 a.m. Authorities have just confirmed this incident began in Richmond at around 10:35 p.m.

“Richmond PD officers were attempting to stop a vehicle. The suspect vehicle turned onto a dead end street and made an abrupt u-turn. The suspect vehicle then rammed her car into a marked RPD patrol car and fled,” Lt. Felix Tan, RPD spokesman, told Berkeleyside.

Police pursued the car into Berkeley where the chase ended at Bonar and Bancroft. All three occupants were taken into custody and no weapons were found. Tan said the officer was not injured but the patrol car had moderate damage.

Tan also said the driver was an adult female, and she was the only one booked on suspicion of the assault on the officer. He said RPD does not generally release the names of individuals who are arrested.

Update, 11:55 p.m. BPD tells us this is a Richmond case; no further information was available. Berkeleyside will attempt to learn more.

Update, 11:44 p.m. The neighborhood tipster tells Berkeleyside at least one of the people detained after the chase lives on the block.

He said he heard what sounded like loud reports during the pursuit: “If there wasn’t gunfire, then someone was setting off a lot of fireworks in the last 30 seconds of the chase. It was a very loud and distinct POP POP POP POP POP POP POP really quickly before everyone got out of their cars.” … Continue reading »

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Crime

Sentencing postponed again in Berkeley murder; convicted accomplice disputes identity of killer

Carroll, at right, seen here with brothers Jermaine and Charles Davis, both of whom have since been killed in fatal shootings. Photo: Coleon Carroll/FB
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The attorney for a 27-year-old man found guilty earlier this year of a 2010 murder in Berkeley has filed a motion for retrial and plans to bring in new testimony from a convicted accomplice in the case to dispute her client’s guilt.

Coleon Carroll entered a no contest plea for voluntary manslaughter in February after authorities identified him as the getaway driver in the murder of Gary Ferguson Jr. and the attempted murder of Larry Belle as they talked on Sacramento Street in South Berkeley one morning about six years ago.

An Alameda County Superior Court jury found Brandon Wallace of Pittsburg guilty in March of being a shooter in that murder. The guilty verdict means he could spend more than 50 years in prison.

Read complete coverage of the case.

But Wallace’s sentencing has been delayed repeatedly since his conviction for murder, attempted murder and unlawful possession of a firearm March 21. A prior sentencing hearing was postponed because Wallace’s father was reportedly working out of state and wanted to attend.

Thursday, the hearing was postponed again, and it now won’t take place before Dec. 1.

Defense attorney Bonnie Narby told Judge Jon Rolefson she plans to bring in Carroll to say it was actually another man — his deceased cousin Jermaine Davis — who was at the shooting scene. (Davis and Wallace both had dreadlocks at the time of the murder.) Narby argued during Wallace’s trial that he was in another city during the Berkeley murder and was not the man responsible for it.

Authorities have said Wallace was shot accidentally by an accomplice during Ferguson’s murder, which they said was evident on surveillance footage of the killing. And his blood was found soaked into the front seat of the getaway vehicle. … Continue reading »

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Crime

Update: ‘Family march’ set for Thursday is canceled

Family March for Safe Streets route. Image: FMSS
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Update, Sept. 29, 9:45 a.m. The family march has been canceled due to a conflict with another event and some community pushback about the focus of the march. (The organizer has asked the community to attend the other event instead.) See the organizer’s statement about the cancelation in the comments at the bottom of this story.

Original post, Sept. 28: Two local mothers were spurred into action this week to organize a “family march” in South Berkeley after several incidents of gun violence in the neighborhood, one of which killed a 19-year-old man.

The “Family March for Safe Streets” is set to take place Thursday, Sept. 29, from 5:30-6:30 p.m. Participants can meet at Sweet Adeline Bakeshop, 3350 Adeline St., beginning at 5 p.m. There will be free glow-stick necklaces for the first 50 children, and free glow-bracelets for the next 100.

Despite tonsillitis, South Berkeley resident and co-organizer Heather Zadig spoke before the Berkeley City Council during public comment for items not on the agenda on Tuesday night to alert the community to the march. The event, which is “not a protest,” is meant to help bring the community together and raise awareness about the recent shootings.

“They’re awful. They’re frequent,” she said to council, and said a number of local parents are concerned. “We’re moving our kids’ bedrooms away from the front of the street because there are sirens going by and waking them up in terror every night.” … Continue reading »

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Crime

Police on scene after person stabbed in West Berkeley

San Pablo and Gilman. Image: Google Maps
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A person was stabbed in West Berkeley shortly before 9 p.m., police say, but is expected to survive.

Berkeley Police watch commander Lt. Mike Durbin said officers responded to the stabbing, at Gilman Street and San Pablo Avenue, and remain on the scene taking witness statements and continuing to investigate.

The victim was taken to a local hospital by paramedics but is in stable condition and expected to survive, he said.

Durbin said there is no reason to think the stabbing was related in any way to recent incidents of gun violence in South Berkeley.  … Continue reading »

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Crime

Berkeley police step up patrols after recent shootings

Police are on the scene of a shooting in South Berkeley. Photo: Citizen reporter
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Update, 1:40 p.m. Police have identified the young man shot and killed Thursday night as 19-year-old Ignacio Francis Jr. of Berkeley. Those who knew him have said he went by the name “Greg.” He was shot around 7:30 p.m. while standing with a group of people at Harper and Fairview streets. The shooting was not random, according to Officer Byron White, a Berkeley Police Department spokesman.

Original story, 1:34 p.m. The Berkeley Police Department has increased patrols and stepped up investigations this week after several recent shootings, including a homicide Thursday night.

It was the city’s second fatal shooting of the year.

According to a notice released shortly after 1 p.m. Friday, police are asking the community for help as investigators work to identify and capture suspects linked to a series of shootings.

“We ask community members to quickly report any disputes or altercations, especially if a firearm is seen,” according to the statement. “Community members can also play a crucial role in locating evidence, and providing information such as newly discovered damage or providing information or home video surveillance recordings.”

A shooting Wednesday involved a 16-year-old boy from outside Berkeley who was dropped off at the hospital but expected to survive.

“Multiple residents reported gunfire, resulting in immediate response from Berkeley Police,” BPD said.

Officers say this shooting and several others “appear to have involved two groups shooting at each other. This does not appear to have been a random act, but rather an incident involving two groups of individuals targeting each other.”

Previously, police identified the groups as “gangs,” but no further information has been provided. … Continue reading »

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Police

City seeks rejection of wrongful death lawsuit against police; celebrity pathologist disputes cause of death

Kayla Moore protest 9/20/16. Photo: Daniel McPartlan
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Attorneys for the city of Berkeley have asked a U.S. District Court judge to reject a wrongful death lawsuit filed in 2014 by the father of a transgender woman who died in police custody in 2013.

Representatives for both parties are expected to appear in court Friday morning at the Phillip Burton Federal Building in San Francisco. If the case moves ahead, the trial itself has been scheduled to begin Oct. 17, according to materials from lawsuit supporters.

Kayla Moore, a 41-year-old Berkeley resident, was in her Allston Way apartment Feb. 12, 2013, when police responded to a disturbance call there, authorities have said. She stopped breathing during a struggle as officers tried to detain her. The Alameda County coroner’s office said Moore — whose given name was Xavier — died due to “acute combined drug intoxication” and pre-existing medical conditions, and ruled her death an accident.

The city filed a motion for summary judgment in June essentially arguing that the family has neither the evidence nor the facts to back up the wrongful death suit. The city says officers used “minimal force” and have “qualified immunity” under the law as to the force they did use.

Oakland attorney John Burris, whose firm is representing Kayla’s father, Arthur Moore, has argued police had no cause to arrest Moore and “used unreasonable force” during the arrest.

To bolster the case, Burris has filed a declaration by Dr. Werner Spitz, a forensic pathologist who has worked on a variety of high-profile cases in recent decades. Spitz said restraint by the officers made it difficult for Moore to breathe and contributed to her death. … Continue reading »

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Crime

Update: Homicide victim ID’d as Berkeley 19-year-old

Police investigate a homicide at Fairview and Harper streets, in Berkeley, on Thursday, Sept. 22, 2016. It was the city's second homicide of the year. Photo: David Yee ©2016
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Update, Sept. 23, 1:40 p.m. Police have identified the young man shot and killed Thursday night as 19-year-old Ignacio Francis Jr. of Berkeley. Those who knew him have said he went by the name “Greg.” He was shot around 7:30 p.m. while standing with a group of people at Harper and Fairview streets. The shooting was not random, according to Officer Byron White, a Berkeley Police Department spokesman.

Original story, Sept. 22: One person has died after a shooting in South Berkeley, authorities reported just after 9 p.m.

Acting Capt. Kevin Schofield, a Berkeley Police spokesman, said a small group of men and women were at the corner of Harper and Fairview streets when a man walked up to them Thursday evening.

“Following some type of verbal exchange, the adult male produced a handgun and fired multiple rounds,” Schofield said. “The group scattered and one person sustained life threatening injuries. BPD officers arrived quickly and attempted to provide medical aid as they summoned BFD. BFD transported the victim to the hospital where he was declared deceased.”

Police got multiple 911 calls about the shooting beginning just after 7:30 p.m.

One person, a male, was taken to Highland Hospital for treatment, according to scanner traffic reviewed by Berkeleyside. The incident took place in the 1800 block of Fairview, according to a Nixle alert released by BPD at 9:20 p.m.

No further information about the victim has been provided. It’s the second homicide in Berkeley of 2016.

Schofield said no arrests have been made but police are looking for the shooter.

According to the 9:20 p.m. Nixle, “While officers work this active crime scene the 1800 block of Fairview Street between Adeline and Ellis Streets is closed to all traffic. Harper Street between Woolsey and Fairview Streets is also closed while we investigate this matter.” … Continue reading »

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Police

Berkeley Police Department to focus on staffing, will ‘take a collective deep breath’ under new chief

Capt. Andrew Greenwood, many other members of the department, and retirees and family, attended the ceremony Thursday. Photo: Emilie Raguso
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In the wake of the abrupt departure Tuesday of Berkeley Police Chief Michael Meehan, Acting Chief Andrew Greenwood says his short-term goals are to hire more officers and keep the department focused on the future.

“Calm, steady, forward movement is the way to go,” Greenwood told the city’s Police Review Commission on Wednesday night. “That’s kind of where I’m at.”

Greenwood was at the PRC meeting to give the regularly scheduled chief’s report and discuss the mid-year crime report, but the first topic that came up when the meeting began was Meehan’s sudden departure, announced Wednesday, and what will happen next.

Commission Chair George Perezvelez called Meehan’s resignation the elephant in the room, and noted that the leadership change — which put Berkeley native Greenwood at the helm — is “effective immediately.” … Continue reading »

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Crime

Police respond to gunfire calls; teenage boy struck

Image: Google Maps
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Berkeley police are responding to reports of gunfire in South Berkeley, with a teenage boy injured as a result.

Officer Byron White, a Berkeley Police spokesman, said calls began coming in at 5:40 p.m. about gunfire at Russell and Sacramento streets.

White said two people may have been crossing Sacramento at Russell when an occupant or occupants in a truck began to shoot at them.

No victims were on the scene, but police got a call from a local hospital reporting a possible gunshot victim. White said the victim is a teenage boy who is being treated for what is believed to be non-life-threatening injuries.

Casings were also recovered at the scene. … Continue reading »

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Police

‘Suspicious package’ shuts down Public Safety Building

Berkeley Police Department. Photo: Emilie Raguso
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Berkeley authorities were on alert Wednesday afternoon after a suspicious package appeared at the Public Safety Building, which houses the police and fire departments, authorities said.

The Fire Department’s Hazardous Materials Team and the Police Department’s Bomb Squad were sent to investigate the package, said Deputy Fire Chief Donna McCracken, at 2100 Martin Luther King Jr. Way.

A “shelter in place” order was put into effect for building occupants when the package was discovered shortly before 4:20 p.m.

Authorities shut down the sidewalk and a southbound traffic lane on Martin Luther King Jr. Way from Addison Street down to Allston Way during the investigation. One lane of southbound traffic remained open for vehicles.  … Continue reading »

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Police

Berkeley police chief resigns; no reason provided

Berkeley Police Chief Michael Meehan said the public still has ample time to offer feedback. Photo: Emilie Raguso
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Berkeley Police Chief Michael Meehan has resigned following reports surfaced by Berkeleyside last month of turmoil within the department and extensive criticism by officers of the chief.

Meehan resigned after nearly seven years, and Capt. Andrew Greenwood will now take the helm of the department as acting chief, according to a memo from the city manager to the Berkeley City Council dated Wednesday, Sept. 21. Greenwood, a Berkeley native, has been at BPD for 31 years. (Scroll down to see the memo.)

No explanation has been provided as to the reason for Meehan’s departure. He lives in Berkeley with his family and has a son in Berkeley schools. Many thought he would continue in his role as chief until retirement, despite the recent criticism.

Greenwood said Wednesday the resignation “came as a complete surprise” to him, and that it had been a “whirlwind five hours of figuring out” all of the logistics of the transfer of command.

“I’m sure it was a really difficult decision for him and his family,” he said. “I was asked yesterday afternoon if I would be acting chief and I agreed to.”

It is unclear exactly when Meehan put in his resignation, but he was not present for the six-month crime report to the Berkeley City Council on Tuesday evening, and no city officials asked where he was. It’s a significant meeting that he has rarely, if ever, missed in the past.

Just after 11:30 a.m. Wednesday, Meehan posted his resignation letter on Twitter.

“While there is no good time to leave an organization you have such respect and admiration for, there is a right time and I believe, after discussing with my family, the time is now,” he wrote. See the full letter below.

On Twitter, Meehan wrote, “Thank you Berkeley! It has been an honor. My family and I are grateful.” … Continue reading »

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Crime

Judge upholds death verdict in Berkeley-Oakland murders

Alaysha Carradine, 8, and Anthony "Tone" Medearis, 22, were both killed in fatal shootings in 2013. Photos: Courtesy of family
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Wednesday afternoon, an Alameda County Superior Court judge ordered convicted double murderer Darnell Williams Jr. to be executed by the state of California.

Williams, 25, of Berkeley was convicted by a jury in May, after nearly a month of testimony, of two fatal shootings in 2013. The victims were 8-year-old Alaysha Carradine, who was a guest at a sleepover when she was gunned down, and — less than two months later — 22-year-old Anthony “Tone” Medearis III, a father of two. Williams also was found guilty of the attempted murders of two children at the sleepover and their grandmother, as well as the unintentional shooting of his own nephew during the Berkeley killing.

In June, the jury recommended that Williams be sentenced to death. Judge Jeffrey Horner then undertook an extensive independent review of the case before making his ruling Wednesday about what the sentence would be.

Horner said Wednesday the “overwhelming weight” of the evidence supported the jury’s death penalty verdict from earlier this year. He also sentenced Williams to an additional 172 years to life in prison should the death sentence be taken off the table at a later date, and ordered him to pay about $35,000 in fees and fines for restitution and court costs.

Williams said nothing publicly throughout the hearing. At times, he looked around to see who was in the courtroom. But, for the most part, he kept his head down and faced forward. Williams is slated to be taken from Santa Rita Jail in Dublin to San Quentin State Prison in Marin County on Wednesday, authorities say.

“Justice has been truly served,” said Jackie Winters, aunt of Medearis, in remarks to the court before the sentencing. “I really don’t understand how one person can inflict so much pain on two different families.”

Prosecutor John Brouhard also read from a written statement by Chiquita Carradine, the mother of Alaysha, who could not attend the hearing, in part, because it “would be difficult,” Brouhard said.

“I will never see my first and only daughter graduate,” she wrote. “I will never get to see her go to prom, I will never get to see her off to college. I will never get another family photo.” … Continue reading »

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