Author Archives: Emilie Raguso

Crime

Man assaulted with metal bat in South Berkeley

Police responded to an assault Sunday on Adeline south of Ashby. Photo: Alissa Greenberg
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Update, 6:28 p.m. BPD’s Sgt. Friedman said the victim and assailant had a dispute inside the Black & White liquor store shortly before the beating: The suspect left and returned armed with the bat, which was aluminum.

Friedman described the assailant as a black woman in her 30s, 5 foot 2 to 5 foot 5 inches tall, about 200 pounds. She wore a straight black wig or weave down to her mid-back, and was dressed in a white long-sleeved shirt or jacket, blue plaid pants and a bright red rectangular shoulder bag with a black strap. The woman left in a black Chrysler Sebring.

The victim, a man in his 20s, is expected to survive.

Said Friedman, “There were several witnesses to the incident but we are still investigating. We ask anyone who knows the identity of the suspect, or who witnessed the assault, to please contact BPD at 981-5900 as soon as possible.”

Original story, 3:52 p.m. Berkeley Police officers were on the scene Sunday afternoon at Ashby Avenue and Adeline Street, across from the Ashby BART station, after a man was reportedly assaulted by someone with a metal bat, authorities said.

Passers-by alerted Berkeleyside to the incident, and said the metal bat could be seen in the roadway Sunday afternoon. … Continue reading »

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Crime

Crime in Berkeley: Apple store theft alert, threats of shooting — over stolen steak — at Berkeley Bowl, more

Police are looking for these two men in connection with the theft of an iPad at a Berkeley Apple store. Photos: 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 March 24-30, there were reports of four robberies18 burglaries16 assaults or batteriesthree weapon-involved calls and two sexual assaults, according to CrimeMapping.com. There were also 14 stolen vehiclesnine disturbances and 40 auto break-ins or thefts from vehicles reported. Two robberies, two burglaries and two 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 24-30 round-up below.

Recent public safety news

APPLE STORE IPAD THEFT Police are looking for two men they say stole an iPad from the Berkeley Apple store earlier this month. On April 3, the men entered the store, at 1823 Fourth St., and left with the iPad. According to a police statement released Thursday, “At this point we don’t believe the theft is related to any ongoing thefts from Apple Stores in the Bay Area. Based on the quality of the video we hoped to enlist the community’s help in nabbing this duo.” The department can be reached at 510-981-5900, or by email at police@cityofberkely.info. The photographs appear above. … Continue reading »

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Crime

Newly found photo could bolster prosecution’s case in Berkeley-Oakland death penalty trial

Darnell Williams Jr. mugshot, courtesy of NBC Bay Area
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A Berkeley man facing multiple murder charges may have inadvertently tipped off the prosecution to a notable piece of evidence by insisting he get access to material on his old cellphone.

Police had confiscated the phone of Darnell Williams Jr. at the time of his arrest in Berkeley in 2013. He has been charged with the murders of an 8-year-old girl in Oakland and a 22-year-old father with ties to the same West Berkeley neighborhood where Williams lived. The trial began two weeks ago. If convicted, Williams could face the death penalty.

Thursday, after excusing the jury until Tuesday morning, attorneys and Alameda County Superior Court Judge Jeffrey Horner stayed on in the courtroom to update the written record following two conversations they’d had earlier in chambers.

The defendant’s cellphone was the topic of those conversations. The defense team had, for some time, been pushing prosecutor John Brouhard to turn over all material from the phone at their client’s urging. Police had tried in the past to download texts and other information from it, but been stymied by technical difficulties.

Defense attorneys “thought it was a really stupid and bad idea”

This week, the Fremont Police Department was able to download the entirety of the phone contents. Brouhard said a review of those records led to the discovery of a photograph that shows a pistol that could have been used to kill 8-year-old Alaysha Carradine in July 2013. She had been playing at a friend’s house during a sleepover and was not the intended target. Three other people, two children and their grandmother, were injured. … Continue reading »

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Crime

Police seek man after robbery of 70-year-old woman

Police say this Ford was used in Monday's robbery. Photo: BPD
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Police are asking for the public’s help to find a man who grabbed the bag of a 70-year-old Berkeley woman earlier this week and shoved her to the ground.

The man had said “hi” to the woman as she passed him while she was taking a walk at about 4 p.m. Monday in the 1300 block of Campus Drive, near Glendale Avenue.

When he shoved her, the woman fell down, causing minor injuries, said Berkeley Police spokesman Sgt. Andrew Frankel.

The man was described as 35 to 40 years old, 5 foot 10 to 6 feet tall, with a “semi stocky” build. He was wearing dark clothing and possibly a beanie hat. The vehicle appeared to be a dark blue or black Ford F-150 pickup truck with a distinctive camper shell. (Scroll down for photographs.)

Alert neighbors began to circulate the man’s photograph on Nextdoor and Twitter earlier this week.

A woman who identified herself as the victim posted the following statement on Nextdoor: “The police seemed to think that the car was stolen since one window was broken. Btw, the police, the firemen were wonderful, as was Kaiser who gave me quite a few stitches on my face. No fun. Be careful but don’t stop walking in the hills because of one incident! We have posted the … photos on telephone poles in our area & will continue to do so. The police think that the attacker, seeing a photo of himself, could easily be frightened out of the area. The man’s face is wider than the photo. When I think that he even said ‘hi’ to me before attacking! The nerve.” … Continue reading »

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Crime

Authorities: Man admitted to killing, tried to bargain with God, in secret recording by Berkeley police

A tree outside the Berkeley Zen Center has become a memorial to Nancy McClellan. Photo: Emilie Raguso
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Left alone in the back of a police car, authorities say an 18-year-old man arrested after the stabbing of a 72-year-old woman in South Berkeley in 2014 confessed to killing “the old lady” and told God he did not want to go to jail for life.

Unbeknownst to him, his statements were recorded by Berkeley Police investigators. Those statements, as well as a secretly recorded jailhouse conversation between him and his mother that led police to the alleged murder weapon, were presented Wednesday by the prosecution during the second day of the preliminary hearing for Kamau Berlin.

Berlin, now 20, is facing a murder charge as well as other serious felonies for the September 2014 killing and attempted carjacking of Nancy McClellan. This week, an Alameda County Superior Court judge heard testimony and evidence in the case against Berlin. Judge Rhonda Burgess said she will not decide until May 4 whether to send the case forward to trial though both sides have rested.

Read complete coverage of the case.

Berkeley Police Sgt. Peter Hong testified Wednesday about a significant break in the investigation that took place shortly after Berlin’s arrest. Concerned McClellan may have been sexually assaulted, police took Berlin for an exam Sept. 19 to test him for any signs of that possibility. (The results of that exam were not presented during this week’s two-day hearing, which began Tuesday.)

Officers had to wait for the medical examiner to arrive, and left Berlin alone and handcuffed in a police car, Hong said. A detective secretly left a recorder on the front seat. Hong testified Wednesday about the evidence he said the recording contained when he listened to it. The recording was not played in court.

Hong said Berlin was “thinking out loud,” talking to himself, when he “admitted to killing ‘the old lady.'”

“‘Work with me, God, I know I did this, I stabbed the lady,'” Hong said he heard on the recording. Berlin made comments about how bad the situation would look in court, according to Hong: the way the woman’s pants had been pulled down, and how he had run from police. He observed that police had not found “the brass knuckles,” and said someone behind him had seen what happened.

Hong later added that Berlin mentioned the words “trying” and “carjacking,” and said: “I killed her. She didn’t deserve it.” He told God he did not want to be sent to jail for life, Hong said. … Continue reading »

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Crime

Witnesses to fatal Berkeley attack did not see killer’s face

Nancy McClellan. Photo: David Gallagher
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An Alameda County Superior Court judge is expected to decide this week whether the case against a former Berkeley Technology Academy student charged with murder and other serious crimes will continue on to trial.

Kamau Berlin, then 18, was arrested Sept. 19, 2014, after a brief police chase about a block from where 72-year-old Nancy McClellan had been left bleeding from life-threatening neck wounds in the back of her green Honda Civic. It was 4:30 p.m. on a Friday. McClellan had been attending a wedding at the nearby Berkeley Zen Center, where she was a member and also a gardener.

Witnesses in the area, both civilians and police officers, testified Tuesday as the preliminary hearing in the case began before Judge Rhonda Burgess. Two neighbors saw a young man matching Berlin’s description in the immediate vicinity of the Honda, at Otis and Russell streets, but neither saw the man’s face or felt they had seen it clearly enough to identify Berlin with certainty. Another witness saw a man matching his description running from the scene but, again, did not see his face.

A Berkeley Police officer who arrived on Otis, just south of Russell, testified Tuesday he made eye contact with Berlin minutes after the initial call came into dispatch. The officer, Christopher Schulz, said Berlin was walking casually down the street. The two made eye contact after Schulz pulled up in his police cruiser. Then Berlin took off running, said Schulz, hopping a 6-foot wrought-iron security gate to access a back yard on Otis before jumping a wooden fence onto a detached garage and disappearing westbound toward Martin Luther King Jr. Way. He was arrested a short time later.

Read complete coverage of the case.

The prosecution is expected to present evidence Wednesday to explain how a conversation between Berlin and his mother led police to the murder weapon, which was recovered near the area where police took him into custody. … Continue reading »

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Crime

Ex-girlfriend of accused killer: ‘I feel scared to this day’

Darnell Williams Jr. mugshot, courtesy of NBC Bay Area
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Testimony continued Monday in the case against a man with ties to a Berkeley gang who is accused of gunning down a little girl at a slumber party and fatally shooting a Berkeley father in the back as he ran for his life and pleaded for mercy.

Defense attorneys for Darnell Williams Jr., 25, have said hard evidence is lacking. They have questioned the credibility of two of the prosecution’s central witnesses and asked the jury not to be swayed by the heartbreaking killing of the little girl, for which they say their client is not responsible. That shooting sent shockwaves through the community and is still difficult for seasoned first-responders to discuss.

Williams could face the death penalty if convicted. He has been charged with the murder, during a sleepover in Oakland’s Dimond District, of 8-year-old Alaysha Carradine, with a firearm, while “lying in wait,” which is a special circumstance that carries extra weight; the attempted murders of three other people at the sleepover, two children and their grandmother; and shooting at an inhabited dwelling.

See the Berkeleyside crime section.

Williams has also been charged with killing 22-year-old Anthony “Tone” Medearis III in Berkeley less than two months later during a robbery, in part because of rumors Medearis had “snitched” to police in 2011. During that shooting, Williams’ nephew was also struck near the eye with a bullet fragment from Williams’ gun, according to the prosecution. … Continue reading »

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Crime

Crime in Berkeley: Gold-painted man arrested after freeway hit-and-runs, fugitive arrested in Tennessee, 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.

From March 17-23, there were reports of six robberies10 burglaries16 assaults or batteriesfour weapon-involved calls and three sexual assaults, according to CrimeMapping.com. There were also 18 stolen vehicles10 disturbances and 33 auto break-ins or thefts from vehicles reported. A robbery, two burglaries and a vehicle theft were reported to the University of California Police Department (UCPD). Arrested or charged individuals in this blotter are presumed innocent. Find our March 17-23 round-up below.

Recent public safety incidents

FIGHT ON BART The BART Police responded Wednesday at about 5:30 p.m. to the downtown Berkeley station for a report of a fight in progress on a Richmond-bound train. When they got there they were told one man had punched another passenger, also male, twice in the face. A witness followed the assailant as he left the station and helped police find him. The victim identified that man as the person who had punched him, and he was arrested and taken to Berkeley Jail. The victim was evaluated by medical personnel at the scene and released.

ALERT TO LOCAL BUSINESSES The Berkeley and Oakland chambers of commerce are warning their members and other local businesses about two men they say have been misleading local businesses to try to sell services and get information. According to the Oakland Chamber: “These individuals have been aggressively visiting and calling businesses selling memberships and promoting a wide array of services including text marketing and credit card payment solutions, then asking for credit card information over the phone to set up new accounts. After collecting credit card information, it is unclear how they are using the data.” The Oakland Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce says it has no affiliation with the the group. Said a Berkeley Chamber of Commerce rep, the men are “attempting to defraud Berkeley businesses while falsely representing themselves as representatives of the Berkeley Chamber.” Police were contacted but, according to the Berkeley Chamber, said this wasn’t a crime. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley council votes to increase inclusionary housing

Many community members attended Tuesday night's council meeting, which was slated to focus on housing. Photo: Ben Gould
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Despite an ambitious agenda, the Berkeley City Council managed Tuesday night to vote on just one policy shift related to affordable housing after attendees became outraged at proposed agenda changes put forward early in the evening by Mayor Tom Bates.

Council voted 8-1 on the Bates proposal to increase the percentage of affordable units required in new projects from 10% to 20%, and to increase the mitigation fee developers can pay if they don’t want to build those units on site. Councilman Max Anderson was the lone “no” vote.

The fee per unit — for all units in a project — is set to increase from $28,000 to $34,000, payable when the certificate of occupancy is issued. There’s a temporary discount, to $30,000, for those who pay early, when the building permit is issued. The discount is slated to sunset after 18 months. Those who choose to build below-market-rate units on site can get out of the fee or pay less, depending how many units they build.

Council asked the city manager to come back with revisions to the existing affordable housing mitigation fee ordinance, which would also “expand the level of affordability” for the below-market-rate units. Currently, units must be affordable for households earning up to 50% of the area median income; the new proposal would add a second tier of units affordable to households earning up to 80%.

The idea behind the mitigation fee is to bolster the city’s Housing Trust Fund to help Berkeley build greater numbers of affordable units around town. To some degree, there is an ideological divide between those who believe developers should include affordable units on site, and those who want to boost the city’s own fund. Proponents of the fund say it can be used to go after grants and leverage the money to get more units in town than building on site — mixed in with private developments — would allow. … Continue reading »

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Neighbors, police vow new push on crime prevention

Community members and police met Monday night to discuss crime prevention efforts. Photo: Emilie Raguso
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A Berkeley community group focused on crime prevention pledged to up its game Monday night, and representatives from the Police Department said they plan to ramp up their own collaboration with neighbors.

Those efforts may be particularly important given the double-digit increase in crime Berkeley saw in 2015. Berkeley police officials reported in March that overall Part 1 crime — a federal designation for the most serious incidents — was up 16% in 2015 compared to the prior year. Violent crime increased 20%, especially in the area of robberies, while property crime was up 16%. There was a 28% increase in vehicle thefts as compared to the prior year.

And, already this year, there has been an unsolved series of high-profile sexual assaults and at least half a dozen shootings.

The group that met Monday, the Berkeley Safe Neighborhoods Committee (BSNC), has worked for some time to provide a city-wide scope to, and coordination about, block-level crime concerns. It meets monthly with police and sometimes takes positions on public safety problems, primarily through letters to council and other city leaders. But active participation in the organization has languished, and its board is working to re-energize the group, which has more than 100 people on its email list.

What’s your neighborhood group? Please let Berkeleyside know.*

One way the BSNC hopes to revive itself is through Facebook: The group has launched a new Facebook page to help neighbors connect. Former Berkeley Mayor Shirley Dean, who helps oversee the BSNC, announced the Facebook page Monday night. Dean said the board is committed to a “coordinated approach” that involves all the city’s Neighborhood Watch and disaster preparedness groups that want to join forces. … Continue reading »

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Crime

Judge orders Williams trial to continue after defendant threatens suicide, violence

Darnell Williams Jr. mugshot, courtesy of NBC Bay Area
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After an unexpected series of events, an Alameda County Superior Court judge offered to lend his own clean underwear, trousers and socks to a defendant standing trial for multiple murders.

Testimony was slated to resume at 9:30 Monday morning in the Darnell Williams Jr. case, but was postponed for what initially were unknown reasons. The jurors all were in attendance on a separate floor but never came down to the courtroom.

At 11:15 a.m., Judge Jeffrey Horner went on the record with prosecutor John Brouhard and defense attorneys  and . Defendant Williams was not present.

Read complete coverage of the case.

Horner then summarized what had taken place earlier in the day. He said deputies had reported several issues that had come up with Williams since the weekend.

First, deputies had tried to move Williams from Santa Rita Jail in Dublin to the North County jail in Oakland, but he told them he did not want that. Billups said his client reported that the move would cause him “nothing but trouble,” either with inmates or deputies, but did not elaborate.

Williams then told the deputies over the weekend that he was suicidal. Under sheriff’s office protocol, he was taken to a separate facility and given a different set of clothing.

Monday morning, Williams refused to come to court, the judge said, because he had not had a chance to shower and did not have clean underwear or socks. He told the deputies, Horner reported, that he “would fight” if they forced him to come to court. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley launches first ‘Resilience Strategy’ in Bay Area

Berkeley CERT training, May 2013. Photo: Emilie Raguso
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Never one to shirk a challenge, the city of Berkeley has come up with an ambitious plan designed to take on everything from racial and social inequity to the impacts of climate change and natural disasters.

And, no, this is not an April Fools’ Day joke.

Friday, the city released its “Resilience Strategy,” a 56-page document that attempts to look at “some of Berkeley’s most pressing physical, social and economic challenges, including earthquakes, wildfire, the impacts of climate change and racial inequity.”

The effort is the culmination to date of work Berkeley is doing as part of The Rockefeller Foundation’s “100 Resilient Cities network,” or 100RC for short. The city was among the first 33 places in the world — along with San Francisco, Oakland and Alameda — chosen to participate in the network back in 2013. (Alameda later lost the grant.) More than 1,000 cities have applied to take part.

Leading the charge in Berkeley is Chief Resilience Officer Timothy Burroughs, who was already working for the city with its Climate Action Plan efforts when he was selected for the gig.

A community event led by Mayor Tom Bates, along with Burroughs, is scheduled to take place Friday from 3-5 p.m. to celebrate the launch. (Scroll to the bottom of this story for details.) … Continue reading »

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Crime

Crime in Berkeley: Sexual assault at Seabreeze, hammer attack at Ohlone Park, robberies at Cal, 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.

From March 10-16, there were reports of three robberiesthree burglaries17 assaults or batteriesone weapon-involved call and one sexual assault, according to CrimeMapping.com. There were also nine stolen vehicles14 disturbances and 29 auto break-ins or thefts from vehicles reported. One vehicle theft was reported to the University of California Police Department (UCPD). Arrested or charged individuals in this blotter are presumed innocent. Find our March 10-16 round-up below some of the most newsworthy incidents from the past week.

The latest public safety incidents

TWO ROBBERIES AROUND CAMPUS UCPD reported two robberies around campus Tuesday, March 29. At 7:05 p.m., a 19-year-old student was walking in the Ellsworth Parking Structure (at Haste Street) when two males approached him. One held his arms while the other went through his pockets and took his wallet. Police couldn’t find the suspects. One was described as black, in his mid-20s, about 5 feet 10 with a black hooded sweatshirt and blue jeans. The other was of unknown race with a red flannel shirt, tan cargo shorts and long white socks.

The next incident took place at 9:30 p.m. on Spieker Plaza, near the Octagon Bridge, when two women sitting on a bench asked to borrow the phone of an 18-year-old student. He agreed, but when he tried to get the phone back, they threatened him and ran off toward Shattuck Avenue. Police searched but could not find the women. One was described as black, in her 20s, about 5 feet 8 to 5 feet 10 inches tall, with an athletic build, wearing a gray sweatshirt and black pants. The other was an East Indian female, 19 to 20 years old, with braided hair wearing all black clothes. UCPD asks anyone with information to call 510-642-6760.

SEXUAL ASSAULT AT SEABREEZE Police responded Monday, March 28, at 10:30 p.m. to a report of a sexual assault in the parking lot of the Seabreeze Market (University Avenue and Frontage) at Eastshore State Park. East Bay Regional Park District police interviewed the woman, who was treated and released from a local hospital. The man and woman knew each other. Police were working earlier this week to find the man, said EBRPD spokeswoman Carolyn Jones.

CROWBAR ASSAULT AT ASHBY BART Also Monday, an Ashby BART station agent said a man with a metal crowbar tried to assault him at about 5:40 p.m. The agent was able to disarm the man and escape without injury, but the man left the area. Berkeley Police officers found the man at a nearby gas station and took him into custody. He was arrested on suspicion of assault with a deadly weapon and taken to jail. His name was not immediately available. … Continue reading »

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