Scroll down for an update to this story.
A dramatic scene that unfolded Friday morning on Alcatraz and Sacramento in South Berkeley was mistaken by some as being an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) raid. Berkeley Police needed to clarify on Twitter that the incident was not related in any way to an immigration sweep.
At 7 a.m. BPD’s Special Response unit went to a residence in the 1500 block of Alcatraz Avenue to serve an arrest warrant, according to Sgt. Andrew Frankel, spokesman for BPD. The suspect was not at the home so no arrest was made, he told Berkeleyside.
BPD patrol cars closed off the section of Alcatraz where the officers in military-style gear were attempting to make the arrest, and traffic was disrupted until about 9:45 a.m., said Frankel.
“There was no federal involvement,” Frankel said, adding that immigration raids were “contrary to our city’s values.” Berkeley police would not be involved in that sort of operation, he confirmed.
One person who believed the attempted arrest involved ICE was @FeliciaGustin who posted on Twitter that Berkeley police had cooperated with ICE to raid a construction site at Sacramento and Alcatraz.
So much for Berkeley being a Sanctuary City! This morning 7:25 am, ICE w/ Berkeley police IN FULL COOPERATION raided a construction site @ Sacramento & Alcatraz. Call Mayor Arreguin to express our outrage! (510) 981-7100 pic.twitter.com/MXpila3rV5
— FeliciaGustin (@FeliciaGustin) November 17, 2017
Frankel said BPD tweeted a response to clarify that the construction site, although on the same block, was not the target, and that ICE was not involved.
The city’s mayor, Jesse Arreguín, who has spoken out about immigrant rights, was also prompted to make clear that the incident did not involve ICE. His Twitter account posted the following at 8:34 a.m.: “Reports of an ICE raid happening in South Berkeley are not true. The police were serving a warrant and there was no ICE presence or involvement of any kind. Berkeley continues to be a Sanctuary City and we stand with our undocumented community.”
Meanwhile, Councilman Ben Bartlett, whose district is near where the incident took place, posted about it on NextDoor: “This morning BPD is serving an arrest warrant for a suspect in a recent shooting. The suspect is presumed to be armed and dangerous.”
BPD’s Frankel said he could not provide details about whether the wanted suspect was involved in a shooting.
Berkeleyside began receiving inquiries, via many channels, almost as soon as the attempted arrest was underway.
Hey @berkeleyside what’s happening on Alcatraz? Like 30 dudes in army gear and a military vehicle while the street’s blocked off. Curious!
— Carmen Bush (@carmenbush) November 17, 2017
BPD’s Special Response unit in action has been known to provoke upset. One tweeter Friday morning asked “why storm troopers dressed in jungle camo [are] on our streets?” In 2015, BPD felt it had to defend Special Response tactics after a police operation in southwest Berkeley that sparked community concern over whether military tools and tactics were being unnecessarily adopted by local departments.
Update, 4 p.m. Berkeley Police confirmed they did detain and then release someone Friday morning during the attempted warrant arrest. Berkeleyside put the question to them after reader Julia McEvoy got in touch because she witnessed the Special Response Team on Alcatraz during the incident. She said she saw police lead away a young man with his hands cuffed behind his back, and that a woman came out of a home and handed the police a backpack. Berkeleyside asked BPD to clarify what had happened, given that a spokesman had said earlier that nobody was arrested. Sgt. Joe Okies of BPD said “that person was detained at the scene and released. No arrests were made in conjunction with this case.”