Hunt in Berkeley after man in stolen car drives wrong way on freeway for 30 miles, crashes, flees

CHP officers pursued a stolen vehicle into Berkeley early Monday. Photo: David Davenport
CHP officers pursued a stolen vehicle into Berkeley early Monday. Photo: David Davenport

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.

CHP Oakland spokesman Officer Sean Wilkenfeld said the chase ended in Berkeley on Hearst Avenue when the driver of the stolen Honda Accord crashed into a GMC Envoy near California Street. The driver of the GMC had minor injuries and was taken to a local hospital.

“At this time we are still looking for the suspect and are conducting a thorough search of the area,” Wilkenfeld said at about 3:50 a.m.


Police officers on Hearst Avenue get a police dog ready to search for the driver of a stolen vehicle, in Berkeley, early Monday, May 18, 2015. Police began chasing the vehicle in Concord, late Sunday, at times going the wrong way on the freeway and city streets. Photo: David Yee
Police officers on Hearst Avenue get a police dog ready to search for the driver of a stolen vehicle, in Berkeley, early Monday, May 18, 2015. Police began chasing the vehicle in Concord, late Sunday, at times going the wrong way on the freeway and city streets. Photo: David Yee

The incident began around 11:30 p.m. when the California Highway Patrol’s Contra Costa Office received word that another law enforcement agency had canceled a pursuit of a stolen Honda after it entered the freeway against traffic.

CHP Contra Costa asked for air support from the Golden Gate Division’s helicopter, which was able to spot the Honda as it traveled the wrong way on Highway 4 and other roads around Concord.

It “entered city streets briefly until the vehicle ended up on [eastbound] Highway 4 heading in the wrong direction all the way until it reached I-80,” said Wilkenfeld. The driver continued against traffic on Interstate 80, and exited at University Avenue in Berkeley, about 30 miles from where the pursuit began.

CHP ground units stayed near the Honda but did not pursue the vehicle, allowing the helicopter to follow it from the air, as it traveled eastbound on University in the westbound lanes.

Patrol units on the ground began to chase the Honda near Oxford and University streets in downtown Berkeley when it was no longer driving wrong way, Wilkenfeld said. The vehicle crashed on Hearst in North Berkeley, near California Street, and the driver fled.

Officers did a house-by-house search of the area, with the help of a police canine unit from Richmond, but had not located the driver as of 4 a.m.

Wilkenfeld also confirmed that, “during the pursuit our Golden Gate Communication Center received a 911 call from a man identifying himself as the driver of the vehicle our helicopter was pursuing. That man told us to stop following him with our helicopter. At this time we are still looking into the authenticity of the call as we cannot confirm that the caller was in fact the driver of that suspect vehicle.”

Scroll down for Berkeleyside’s original story and live updates prior to the official CHP statement.

Officers standing on corner of California Street and Berkeley Way at about 1 a.m. Photo: Lauren Kawana
Officers standing on corner of California Street and Berkeley Way at about 1 a.m. Photo: Lauren Kawana

Update, 3:23 a.m. One local resident told Berkeleyside on Facebook that police are “still banging on doors, searching back yards on Berkeley Way.” According to scanner traffic they were moving the search onto the 1900 block of California Street — between Berkeley Way and Hearst Avenue — at about that time. Berkeleyside has requested information from the California Highway Patrol and hopes to have an update later on Monday.

Update, 3:12 a.m. Police continue to search the area for a driver who fled after a crash on Hearst Avenue in Berkeley around midnight. They are now in the 1500 block of Berkeley Way, between Sacramento and California streets, according to scanner traffic.

Update, 2:20 a.m. The man was identified by police over the scanner as a 32-year-old on probation for robbery who had been released from jail in April. He reportedly called CHP dispatchers as officers chased him and told them he did not want to return to jail.

Update, 1:36 a.m. Officers continue to search the 1500 block of Hearst, between Sacramento and California streets, but have not located the driver, as per scanner traffic.

Original post, 1:04 a.m. Authorities are looking for a man who was driving a stolen vehicle and fled on foot in North Berkeley after crashing during a pursuit early Monday morning.

A canine unit from the Richmond Police Department was on the scene as of about 12:50 a.m. to help with the search. (Berkeley does not have canine units on its police force.)

According to unconfirmed scanner traffic, the CHP followed a stolen vehicle — a dark green Honda Accord — onto University Avenue from westbound Interstate 80 shortly before midnight.

The driver headed eastbound in the westbound lanes of University and was pursued by two CHP units.

A Berkeley Police officer was also in the area and stayed with the CHP units as they followed the driver as he approached Sacramento Street. The stolen vehicle turned onto Fulton Street and ended up on Hearst Avenue in North Berkeley.

The driver crashed on Hearst between Sacramento and California streets, causing another vehicle to flip over. He then fled.

Many local residents reported, on Twitter, hearing the sound of a helicopter overhead.

Officers described the driver over the scanner as a white man with a shaved head and a “scruffy face.”

Officers remained in the area of Berkeley Way and Sacramento at the time of this report.

As of about 1 a.m., Richmond Police on the scene were announcing plans to search the 1500 block of Hearst, west of California Street, but had not yet entered it, as per scanner traffic.

Berkeleyside will update this post if additional information becomes available.

Listen to the Berkeley Police scanner online, but know that information on it is preliminary and should be treated with caution prior to confirmation from authorities.

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