Category Archives: Police

North Berkeley BART station closed due to grenade scare

BART closure. Photo Josh Schoolfiled
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The North Berkeley BART station was closed briefly Thursday evening after someone reported seeing what appeared to be a live grenade in the station’s satellite parking lot on Franklin Street.

According to BART Police, a responding officer checked the device and determined it appeared to be a live explosive.

With the assistance of the Berkeley Police local residents were evacuated from the immediate neighborhood at around 6:50 p.m., and a safety perimeter was established.

The station was closed as a precaution, and the UC Berkeley police bomb squad was called in. Members of the bomb squad inspected the device and determined it was a toy grenade. … Continue reading »

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Authorities practice wildfire response in Berkeley Hills

Police and firefighters will be out in the North Berkeley neighborhoods this week practicing wildfire response (file photo). Photo: Emilie Raguso
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This week, Berkeley police and firefighters will be making the rounds in some North Berkeley neighborhoods as they practice skills related to urban wildfire response.

According to a notice released by police Monday morning, the training is set to take place Monday, Wednesday and Friday this week in the North Berkeley Hills.

“The purpose of these training sessions is to improve the safety of our residents during wildfire emergencies. Responders will practice real-time determination of evacuation routes, firefighting tactics and strategies, and communication protocols,” according to the statement, which was released over the Nixle alert service.

The training comes on the heels of an early-morning vegetation fire in Tilden park on Sunday that drew five fire companies to the Berkeley-Oakland hills to put it out. Sunday’s fire broke out not far from where the historic 1991 firestorm began, on Oct. 19, 1991. On that day, firefighters believed they had succeeded in extinguishing the blaze. But flames erupted again the next day, aided by strong winds, and the resulting conflagration turned into one of the worst firestorms ever seen in the country. … Continue reading »

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14 consider lawsuit against city of Berkeley after protests

Berkeley police used teargas to break up protests Saturday night and Sunday morning. Photo: Pete Rosos
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Attorneys representing 14 people who say they were struck and jabbed by police batons, clubbed, beaten, teargassed, slammed to the ground, fired on with “less lethal” projectiles or arrested during December protests in Berkeley related to the “Black Lives Matter” movement are considering filing a civil claim with the city on their clients’ behalf.

Some of the claimants were reporters or individuals documenting the protests. One UC Berkeley student said she was unable to complete her semester or graduate as a result of her injuries. One woman, a minister who said she was struck in the back of the head while trying to help up another demonstrator who had fallen, required three staples at the emergency room to close the gash she received.

Read past Berkeleyside coverage of the Berkeley protests.

In late June, attorneys filed four tort claims outlining alleged injuries to their clients. Those documents are required to be submitted prior to the official filing of a lawsuit against a government entity, explained Berkeley attorney James B. Chanin. Chanin and attorney Rachel Lederman of San Francisco-based Lederman & Beach Attorneys At Law are representing the group on behalf of the National Lawyers Guild.

According to a brief statement posted by Lederman, “Our clients include a Chronicle photographer and a minister who were clubbed on the heads for no apparent reason; a 55 year old Berkeley Rent Board counselor who was clubbed in the back from behind while she was urging other demonstrators to give the police space; and a visitor from Los Angeles who happened on the demonstration and had been there for only minutes when he was shot with a ‘less lethal’ munition, fracturing his knee.” … Continue reading »

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Berkeley camp bus accident injures at least 16

Image: Google maps
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At least 12 children and four adults were injured when a bus full of Berkeley summer campers rear-ended a Nissan van on westbound Interstate 80 on Monday morning, causing a “chain reaction collision,” the California Highway Patrol has reported.

The accident took place at approximately 10 a.m. on I-80 near Ashby Avenue. Officers who responded to the scene found a yellow school bus with approximately 50 children on board, ages 5-15, according to the CHP, along with five other involved vehicles.

Oakland CHP spokesman Officer Sean Wilkenfeld said all of the injuries appeared to be minor. The Berkeley Fire Department responded to the scene to treat the children, he said.

One parent identified the children on board as attendees of Camp Kee Tov, run by Congregation Beth El in North Berkeley. The campers were heading for Middle Harbor Park in Oakland for a field trip, the CHP reported. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley police defend tactics after laundromat robbery

Police search Sacramento Street, near Dwight Way, for an armed robber who robbed a laundromat, in Berkeley, on Monday, July 27. Photo: David Yee
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One week after a police operation in southwest Berkeley sparked community questions about whether military tools and tactics have been unnecessarily adopted by local departments, the Berkeley Police chief and one of his captains said safety was the overriding concern that drove decision making last Monday.

Threats to officer safety are very real. Police Chief Michael Meehan and Acting Capt. Jennifer Louis answered questions from Berkeleyside on Monday, Aug. 3, less than 24 hours after an officer-involving shooting in Oakland left a local man dead and a police sergeant in serious condition. According to a statement released by the Oakland Police, the man opened fire on officers with an assault rifle after they responded to his home during a sexual assault investigation. And, less than two weeks ago, Hayward Police Sgt. Scott Lunger was fatally shot without warning during a traffic stop.

Meehan said today, however, that it was the specifics of last week’s robbery and assault at a laundromat — “the facts of the individual case…. and the nature of the threat” — that prompted the use July 27 of a police dog from Oakland, an armored vehicle from Alameda and the Berkeley Police Special Response Team, which wears camouflage uniforms when it responds to calls.

Those decisions incited an emotional response from some in the Berkeley community and beyond who said the tactics are evidence of the increasing militarization of local police departments. Many said they were put off by the camouflage uniforms and armored vehicle, in particular. In the Berkeleyside comments, one person called the operation a sign of a “police state” and another decried the “unprecedented show of military force.” Others said police had made the right decisions, acting professionally and efficiently. But even some who made a point to say they support certain police tactics had questions. … Continue reading »

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National Night Out comes to Berkeley on Tuesday

Berkeleyans are coming out in record numbers for this year's National Night Out celebration. (Scroll down for the interactive map.) Image: Google Maps
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It’s by far the biggest year yet for National Night Out in Berkeley, with nearly 100 neighborhoods and organizations signed up to hold block parties and other events Tuesday night.

And police say it’s not too late to sign up. If your neighborhood, business, church, association or community agency would like to participate, download the registration form and send it to Officer Stephanie Polizziani at

The nationwide annual event is in its 32nd year. It brings local police, firefighters, city officials and other city staffers into the neighborhoods to mingle with local residents who hold block parties and get to know each other in the interest of building community and neighborhood safety.

According to the city, the primary goal is “to help communities build relationships with their local public safety department and raise awareness about crime prevention. In general, neighborhoods participate in National Night Out by turning on their lights and having porch or street side conversations” and “strengthening neighborhood bonds.”

Continue reading »

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Man commits suicide in Little Farm parking lot

Tilden Little Farm - Mary Flaherty
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A man in his late 60s killed himself in the Tilden Little Farm parking lot on Friday afternoon after leaving a note about his intentions in his El Cerrito home.

East Bay Regional Park District spokeswoman Carolyn Jones said the man, who was born in 1948, appears to have shot himself as he sat in his Subaru station wagon in the parking lot around 2:15 p.m.

Jones said no one heard the gunshot, but that a family reported the incident at 2:30 p.m. after seeing the man, who appeared to be deceased, in his vehicle.

The man was lying in the front seat, with the seat reclined, and had received a single gunshot wound to the head. The gun was found on his chest when authorities responded.

Jones said the man had been reported missing out of El Cerrito. Authorities found a suicide note at his home during the investigation.

The Berkeley Fire Department declared the man dead at 3:10 p.m. … Continue reading »

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North Berkeley package destroyed, likely a hoax

The suspicious package (on the left) in North Berkeley has been rendered safe. Photo: Devin Taylor-McDonald
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Update, July 29, 12 p.m. One local resident said she spotted this box July 19, prior to the police incident: “That was in a neighboring yard full of freebies on Sunday. My husband found a romulan warbird model next to it.…We thought the box was a bad art project.”

Original story, July 22, 1:38 p.m. Police advised the public to avoid the area of Hopkins Street and Monterey Avenue in North Berkeley on Wednesday afternoon after a report of the discovery of a suspicious package.

Authorities ultimately rendered the package safe and an officer on the scene said the scare had likely been the result of a hoax. (Scroll to the bottom of this story to see our live updates throughout the afternoon.)

At about 1:30 p.m., the Berkeley Police Department put out a Nixle alert about the incident: “The Berkeley Police is currently investigating a suspicious package found near the intersection of Monterey Avenue and Hopkins Street. The intersection is closed to all vehicle and pedestrian traffic.”

Police asked people to avoid the area and say they “do not know how long the roadway will be closed.”  … Continue reading »

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Hundreds gather in Berkeley to remember balcony victims

Hundreds gathered in Civic Center Park Sunday night for a "Month's Mind" to honor and remember those killed in the June 16 balcony collapse. Photo: Ted Friedman
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A month after a fifth-floor balcony snapped off the façade of 2020 Kittredge St. in Berkeley, sending six people in their 20s to their deaths and injuring seven others, hundreds of people gathered at Martin Luther King Jr. Civic Center Park on Sunday to honor them.

The event was a “Month’s Mind,” a traditional Irish requiem mass held a month after a death, according to Philip Grant, the Irish consul general in San Francisco. It is meant to remember and honor the deceased. There is a moment of silence for reflection.

“It’s a moment of reflection on what happened and where we’ve come,” said Grant. … Continue reading »

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As students recover in hospitals, support grows for survivors and victims of Berkeley balcony collapse

A note and flowers left in memory of the victims of a deadly balcony collapse at the Library Gardens Apartments lie on the sidewalk on Kittredge Street, near Miliva Street, in Berkeley, on Wednesday, June 17, 2015. Six people died and seven were seriously injured in the early Tuesday morning accident. Photo: David Yee ©2015
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By Francesca Paris and Eden Teller

As the bodies of the Irish students killed in the recent balcony collapse accident in Berkeley were being prepared for repatriation back to Ireland, the seven students injured in the accident continued to recover in several Bay Area hospitals.

Aoife Beary, Clodagh Cogley, Sean Fahey, Conor Flynn, Jack Halpin, Niall Murray and Hannah Waters are being treated at Highland Hospital in Oakland, Eden Medical Center in Castro Valley and John Muir Medical Center in Walnut Creek for injuries sustained when they plummeted from the fifth-floor balcony that snapped off the Library Gardens apartment building at 2020 Kittredge St.

Read complete balcony collapse coverage on Berkeleyside.

The victims were celebrating Beary’s 21st birthday when the accident happened at around 12:40 a.m. Tuesday.

Father Aidan McAleenan, an Irish pastor at Oakland’s Saint Columba Catholic Church, has been providing support for the families of the victims and has visited the injured students in the hospital. … Continue reading »

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Coroner releases autopsy results on balcony victims; first responders sought help for shock, stress

Irish Consul General Philip Grant praised the first responders for their compassion. Photo: David Yee
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The six young people who fell to their deaths Tuesday when a balcony snapped off the fifth floor of Library Gardens in downtown Berkeley died of multiple blunt injuries, the Alameda County coroner’s office said Thursday.

Four of the youth died from “multiple blunt injuries,” one died of “blunt trauma to the head and brain,” and one died of “multiple blunt traumatic injuries,” according to a coroner’s spokeswoman. But the varied designations are just the way the different coroners described the injuries, she said.

Read complete balcony collapse coverage on Berkeleyside.

The six students who died, and the seven who were seriously injured in the collapse, fell about 48 feet to the street below. Four were pronounced dead at the scene and two died later. They were Ashley Donohoe, 22, from Rohnert Park; and Olivia Burke, Eimear Walsh, Eoghan Culligan, Niccolai Schuster and Lorcán Miller, all 21 years old and from Ireland. … Continue reading »

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City posts documents from balcony collapse property

Remnants of beams from removed balconies show contrast between the condition of the wood from the collapsed balcony and the balcony it fell upon at the Library Gardens Apartments, in Berkeley, on Thursday, June 18, 2015. Six people died and seven were seriously injured in the early Tuesday morning accident. Photo: David Yee ©2015
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By Emilie Raguso and Frances Dinkelspiel

Two days after a deadly balcony collapse in downtown Berkeley killed six and injured seven others, city officials have released a slew of planning documents related to the apartment complex where the tragedy took place.

The city of Berkeley has been doing its own investigation into what went wrong at 2020 Kittredge St., where a fifth floor balcony broke off a top-floor unit at Library Gardens, an apartment building that was completed less than a decade ago. That inquiry most likely won’t be completed in the next few days, said Matthai Chakko, city spokesman. Building officials are examining the plans for Library Gardens, how those plans were executed and what has happened since the building was completed, he said.

“What were the factors that went into the failure?” said Chakko. “We don’t know what happened at what point that led to failure.”

Read complete balcony collapse coverage on Berkeleyside.

Experts who have reviewed photographs and documents from the accident have said wood rot appears likely to have played a significant role in the collapse. Segue Construction Inc., the company that built Library Gardens, has been sued multiple times in recent years in relation to problems with waterproofing and the resulting property damage.

As part of the city of Berkeley’s investigation, officials have been working to make planning documents related to the Kittredge Street property accessible to those who are interested. … Continue reading »

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Firm that built Berkeley complex has been fined, sued

Two balconies were removed from Library Gardens after a deadly accident Tuesday. Photo: Emily Dugdale
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In a series of stories, Berkeleyside examines the building where six people died and seven were seriously injured Tuesday after a balcony collapsed. Part 1 looks at a history of complaints by residents, Part 2 examines potential issues surrounding the balcony construction, and Part 3, below, looks at some of the issues faced by the company that built the apartment complex where Tuesday’s tragedy took place.

The construction company that built the apartment complex in downtown Berkeley where a fifth-floor balcony collapsed Tuesday during a birthday party, killing six and injuring seven, has been fined and sued in connection with its work in other locations, according to documents reviewed by Berkeleyside.

But Sam Singer, a spokesman for Pleasanton-based Segue Construction Inc., said Wednesday that the company has a long track record of safety and quality, and that lawsuits are “commonplace” in the construction industry.

Read complete balcony collapse coverage on Berkeleyside.

Singer also said safety-related fines assessed of Segue have been minimal, and that the company has been sued just once in relation to balcony work and water issues. That lawsuit, which related to a San Jose apartment complex, involved balconies Singer described as very different in design from the Berkeley balcony, at the 176-unit Library Gardens apartment complex, that collapsed Tuesday, with deadly consequences. Segue reportedly settled that case for $3 million.

As it turns out, however, there was also a $3.5 million settlement after a neighborhood association filed a lawsuit in Millbrae in 2013 related to waterproofing and wood rot. And, that same year, Trestle Glen Associates, in Colma, filed a breach of contract lawsuit, still underway, against Segue related to “water intrusion causing tangible property damage.” … Continue reading »

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