Tag Archives: Sacramento Street
After less than two full days of deliberation, an Alameda County Superior Court jury found Brandon Wallace guilty Monday morning of first-degree murder, attempted murder and unlawful possession of a firearm in a 2010 Berkeley double shooting that has been slow to work its way through the system.
The guilty verdict means Wallace, 26, could face more than 50 years in prison.
Wallace of Pittsburg was accused of opening fire at point-blank range — with a second shooter who has never been arrested or charged — on lifelong friends Gary Ferguson Jr. and Larry Belle as they stood talking and joking on a Sacramento Street sidewalk on Oct. 26, 2010, near the shop where Belle worked cutting hair.
Read Berkeleyside’s in-depth look at the trial.
“I just hope it brings some closure to the Ferguson family,” said prosecutor Matt Wendt after the verdict was read shortly before 11 a.m. Monday.
The jury began its deliberations Wednesday afternoon. The group continued through the day Thursday but did not meet Friday. Monday morning, jurors asked to review some video associated with the case, and to hear some testimony read back, according to Judge Jon Rolefson, who said he wanted to make sure those requests were part of the official record. … Continue reading »
Jury deliberations began Wednesday afternoon in the trial of 26-year-old Brandon Wallace, who has been charged in the murder and attempted murder of two men in 2010 on a sunny morning outside a South Berkeley barbershop.
Wallace’s trial began Monday, March 7, not long after a codefendant in the case — 26-year-old Coleon Carroll — pleaded guilty to manslaughter. Authorities say Wallace and another man who has not been publicly identified opened fire at point-blank range on lifelong friends Gary Ferguson Jr. and Larry Belle as they stood talking and joking on a Sacramento Street sidewalk on Oct. 26, 2010, near the shop where Belle worked cutting hair. Ferguson, 35, died within the hour, and Belle spent more than a month in the hospital after the two assailants unleashed a hail of bullets on the pair. Authorities found more than 20 casings from two different guns at the scene.
“They pumped those bullets into those bodies even as they lay on top of each other,” Alameda County Deputy District Attorney Matt Wendt told the jury during closing arguments Wednesday morning. He described the killing as both “coldblooded and calculated” while playing the jury surveillance footage he said clearly showed Wallace opening fire then fleeing the crime scene, limping because he had been shot accidentally by his “little partner” during the brazen attack.
Deputy Public Defender Bonnie Narby urged the jury to find her client innocent of the charges against him, and painted a picture of investigators who got caught up in an “obsession to win at all costs.” She said police did not do enough to track down evidence — in the form of BART surveillance footage or witness statements — that might have proven her client to have been elsewhere during the shooting. They suffered from “tunnel vision,” she argued, when they learned that someone had come into a hospital seeking medical care for an injury consistent with one they believed they saw on surveillance footage of the crime.
“It was good police work that allowed Brandon to be developed as a suspect,” she said. He fit the general description of one of the shooters, had a similar gunshot wound and similar purple shoes, and was a black male with long dreadlocks. “But all that neutrality, all that organized fact finding, once Brandon was developed as a suspect there was a rush to judgment.” … Continue reading »
A Berkeley murder trial launched Monday morning with the attorney for defendant Brandon Wallace arguing that investigators were too quick to zero in on him when he showed up at a local hospital with a gunshot wound after a fatal shooting on Sacramento Street in 2010. During the incident, one of two assailants appears to get shot from behind accidentally by the other while they unleashed a barrage of bullets on two men chatting on the sidewalk.
Deputy Public Defender Bonnie Narby and Deputy District Attorney Matt Wendt gave their opening statements Monday before Alameda County Superior Court Judge Jon Rolefson at the René C. Davidson Courthouse in Oakland.
Read background on the case.
Authorities say Wallace, 26, and another individual who has not been arrested or publicly identified, walked up to Gary Ferguson Jr., 35, and his friend Larry Belle, and opened fire on them outside Johnson’s House of Style, where Belle worked as a barber, on the morning of Oct. 26, 2010. Authorities found more than 20 bullet casings from two different guns at the scene.
In surveillance video from outside the barber shop, which Wendt played in court Monday for the jury, Wendt said Wallace can be seen getting shot, then limping away as he runs down Sacramento Street after the shooting. He said the suspect in the video wore jeans and tennis shoes that looked similar to the ones detectives found with Wallace in the hospital as he sought treatment for a gunshot wound. Wallace told doctors he was hurt when someone tried to rob him in Richmond. … Continue reading »
One of two men charged in a fatal shooting in 2010 outside a Berkeley barbershop, which left a second man critically injured, entered a no contest plea this week in connection with a lesser charge just before the case was slated to head to trial.
Coleon Lee Carroll took the voluntary manslaughter plea as he and co-defendant Brandon Wallace, both 26, ramped up for trial, which had been long delayed due to numerous attorney changes and postponements previously in the court process. Trial preparations for Wallace are underway, and opening arguments are expected in his case in the first half of March.
Authorities identified Carroll and Wallace, during court proceedings in 2012, as “part of a gang in Berkeley called the Waterfront gang.”
Both men had been charged with murder for the Oct. 26, 2010, shooting of 35-year-old Gary Ferguson Jr. outside Johnson’s House of Style on Sacramento Street. A second man, a longtime barber at the shop, was also struck by a hail of bullets when two men walked up to them before 9 a.m. and opened fire. Authorities ultimately identified Carroll as the getaway driver, and Wallace and an unnamed third man as the shooters.
Carroll and Wallace were charged with attempted murder, in connection with the shooting of the barber, and Carroll faced a felony count of possession of a firearm by a felon. (He had been found responsible for committing a robbery in 2007 when he was still a juvenile.)
The plea deal, for voluntary manslaughter and an arming clause, resulted in a sentence of 13 years in state prison, which Carroll will serve at 85% time, said Teresa Drenick, Alameda County district attorney’s office spokeswoman. That translates into total time to be served of about 11 years since his original arrest in 2010. He has been in custody since then. … Continue reading »
“Ms. J was an independent godly woman from the South.”
These words were used by Garland Albert Sr. to describe longtime South Berkeley barber Katherine Johnson — better known around town as “Ms. J” and “Punkin” — who died Aug. 7 after a long battle with cancer. For over 30 years, she has widely been regarded as one of the most highly touted barbers in Berkeley’s black community, in a field still dominated by men.
Albert, a lifelong Berkeley resident who has aimed in his adult life to help Berkeley youth through coaching football and mentor programs, said he had the pleasure of watching Ms. J build her brand from the ground up.
“Being a lady, she had to endure people who thought she would be an easy mark,” he said. “But, as we all know, she demanded respect and was loyal to her soil.” … Continue reading »
Late last month, Berkeley police officers responded to an armed and highly dangerous individual in South Berkeley who robbed a laundromat and later attacked an older resident near Sacramento Street. This was a high-stakes operation involving a violent and heartless criminal. While the investigation is ongoing, we’re grateful that no neighbors were hurt in the course of the crime.
Unfortunately, despite following city protocol and being transparent with the media and public, Berkeley police officers were still subjected to armchair political commentary simply … Continue reading »
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 »
Update, 2:10 p.m. Berkeley police have left the area around Sacramento Street after the search for an armed robber who struck a laundromat Monday morning turned up empty.
According to a 2:02 p.m. Nixle alert sent over email, “The roadways are now open and Berkeley Police are clearing the area. We would like to thank the community for the patience and understanding while we conducted the search.”
The robbery report came in at about 8:30 a.m. from the Wash and Shop laundromat, at 2450 Sacramento St., according to local residents. The robber reportedly used a gun and took cash from the business.
Police said they “arrived on scene and quickly established a perimeter. Members of our Special Response Team were utilized to conduct the search with the assistance of an Oakland Police Department K-9. The suspect was not located and the investigation into this matter continues.” … Continue reading »
Concord man captured, after CHP chase into Berkeley, has history of erratic driving, high-profile arrests
A Concord man who drove the wrong way on the freeway, and fled from authorities after causing a traffic collision in Berkeley on May 18, was arrested early Wednesday morning.
The California Highway Patrol arrested Jerome Wingert, 32, at around 3:10 a.m. at a Berkeley hotel. The arrest was made by CHP officers with assistance from Berkeley police, according to CHP spokesman Officer Clayton Nett. The exact location of the arrest was not available.
Wingert was arrested on suspicion of evading arrest in a reckless manner, auto theft and driving the wrong way on a freeway, along with a warrant for violating parole.
Wingert has been involved in at least two other high-profile pursuits with Bay Area law enforcement agencies over the past seven years, according to media reports.
The recent chase began on Sunday, May 17, in Concord when police there spotted Wingert in a stolen Honda Accord at 11:30 p.m., according to Officer Sean Wilkenfeld, a CHP spokesman. The driver evaded officers, traveling in the wrong direction on the freeway for about 30 miles, before he crashed in North Berkeley, injuring Zaya Yaro, 45, from Santa Clara, the occupant of a vehicle he caused to overturn on Hearst Avenue. … Continue reading »
Update: 11:20 a.m. The California Highway Patrol is still looking for the suspect in this case. CHP Oakland spokesman Officer Sean Wilkenfeld said the agency has some leads which it is pursuing. Wilkenfeld also confirmed that the victim involved in the vehicle collision on Hearst Avenue was Zaya Yaro, 45, from Santa Clara.
Update, 4:30 a.m. A stolen vehicle pursuit that began near Concord, with the driver traveling the wrong direction on the freeway for about 30 miles, ended with a crash in Berkeley around midnight, but authorities are still trying to find the driver. … Continue reading »
A popular Mexican restaurant on University Avenue was closed briefly by a small fire Wednesday afternoon, but the business is set to re-open today around lunchtime.
Four engines, a ladder truck, an ambulance and a battalion chief were dispatched to the scene, at 1446 University (between Sacramento and Acton streets).
Webb said responding firefighters found no fire in the kitchen, but found smoke coming from the roof, where contractors had been using a torch to apply building materials.
Upon investigation, firefighters learned that filters in the ventilation system had caught on fire while the roofers worked. They then used dry chemical extinguishers to put out the flames, and set the filters aside.
“But it started smoldering again,” said Webb. “The ventilation system drew smoke and dry chemicals into the restaurant.” … Continue reading »
A man with moderate injuries was taken by ambulance to Highland Hospital on Sunday evening after being struck by a driver in South Berkeley.
Police and paramedics were called to the scene at about 6 p.m. for a reported traffic collision between a vehicle and a pedestrian, said Officer Byron White, a Berkeley Police spokesman.
White said the man had been listening to music through headphones while running westbound across Sacramento Street at Woolsey Street when the accident took place. … Continue reading »
Nine months after a 98-year-old pedestrian was killed by a motorist while crossing Sacramento Street in a crosswalk in the middle of the day, the city is taking steps to install a flashing beacon pedestrian alert at the intersection where the accident occurred.
Joseph Luft, a Berkeley resident, psychologist and former San Francisco State University professor, was out for one of his regular strolls around lunchtime April 5 when he was hit by a car while crossing Sacramento at Bancroft Way. He died that evening at the hospital.
The driver, Robert Gilchrist, was charged with felony vehicular manslaughter and is being held in Santa Rita jail, with a pre-trial hearing scheduled for Dec. 31. Gilchrist didn’t have a valid driver’s license at the time of the accident and told police he was legally blind.
In the wake of Luft’s death, a number of residents complained to city officials about safety at the Sacramento-Bancroft intersection, which is the site of an assisted living facility, and near Washington Elementary School. Cars barreling down Sacramento, a thoroughfare, often don’t see or stop for pedestrians, even when they’re in the crosswalk, residents said. … Continue reading »