Update, Oct. 10: The woman has been identified as 40-year-old Ariana Ruiz, BPD reports. No further information has been provided.
Original story, Oct. 6, 2:21 p.m. A 40-year-old woman was found dead in a South Berkeley homeless camp on the east side of the BART tracks Friday morning, and authorities are investigating, police report.
Berkeley police and firefighters were called just before 10:15 a.m. to 63rd Street and Martin Luther King Jr. Way for a report of an unresponsive woman, said Police Lt. Andrew Rateaver.
When they arrived, they found a woman in a tent who had died, although there were no obvious signs of trauma or other indications as to what may have caused the fatality. The investigation is ongoing, Rateaver said. The death is classified as suspicious until authorities can make a determination about the cause of death.
The woman’s identity has not been released pending family notification. She appeared to those first on scene to be in her 20s, but police said later they believe she is 40.
Rateaver noted that the area is very close to BART, so Bay Area Rapid Transit police also were notified, and numerous police vehicles responded.
South Berkeley Councilman Ben Bartlett said authorities alerted him to the fatality Friday morning and he went out to the scene, too. He estimated there are perhaps a dozen tents in the camp, and said many of the people staying there are new to Berkeley.
“I’m deeply alarmed and saddened that this could happen under our watch,” Bartlett said.
He noted that he discussed the camp at Tuesday night’s City Council meeting and had expressed concern that night due to the camp’s conditions. He said Friday it’s “like a shooting gallery,” and that he has been working to get it cleaned up.
“We can’t let these neighborhoods degenerate into lawless places where people get hurt,” Bartlett said. “I never knew the … girl… in my district. And it breaks my heart that we lost her.”
Police said they will not release the woman’s identity until it is confirmed by the Alameda County coroner’s office, and her family has been notified.
[Berkeleyside update this story with remarks from Councilman Bartlett shortly after publication. A later update included the woman’s age, which police released shortly after 6:30 p.m.]