Berkeley police arrest 5 people linked to recent armed robbery series

Police made arrests Tuesday at Le Conte and Scenic avenues in connection with a recent robbery case. Image: Google Maps

An officer on patrol arrested four men and a 15-year-old boy just north of the UC Berkeley campus earlier this week after recognizing their vehicle from a recent robbery series in the area involving knives and a gun, authorities report.

Berkeley Police Lt. Dan Montgomery said Friday that an officer on patrol Tuesday at 8 p.m. at Le Conte and Scenic avenues had noticed someone outside a vehicle that matched the description of a vehicle from at least one robbery last weekend. A search of the vehicle turned up a loaded gun, a knife, and property stolen during one of last weekend’s robberies, Montgomery said.

Friday, two of the men were charged with robbery, and one was charged with possession of a gun. The investigation is still underway, police said. According to court documents, the vehicle, “suspects, and weapons [recovered] match a series of pedestrian robberies committed in the past week.” Court papers put the number of possible robberies in the series at six between Friday, Oct. 12, and Monday, Oct. 15.

Earlier this week, police had put out an alert about six robberies and two robbery attempts during that span of time. (The list does not appear to overlap completely, however, so information about some of the incidents is still scant.)


Montgomery described the arrests as “really great patrol work” and said detectives picked up the investigation and “worked on it around the clock.”

Tuesday night, the officer on patrol had spotted a Honda SUV, parked with its engine running, at Scenic and Le Conte, according to court documents. That’s about a block north of the UC Berkeley campus.

Four people were inside the SUV, and another “was seen walking away from the vehicle and urinating in a nearby yard.” Police detained him. When they looked inside the Honda, police wrote, there was an open can of Bud Light, and the vehicle smelled of beer. The driver told police he didn’t have a license, authorities said.

Police said the vehicle and occupants matched the descriptions provided in a recent robbery series nearby where a gun and knife were used. Police detained the group of five and searched the vehicle. Officers found a loaded, unregistered handgun “tucked” under a seat, and a folding knife on the rear floorboard.

The driver, 19-year-old Mario Lopez y Lopez, and a passenger, 19-year-old Carlos Ponce, have been charged by the Alameda County district attorney’s office with second-degree robbery in connection with a robbery Sunday, according to court documents. In that case, they reportedly took a man’s phone and backpack.

Ponce, police wrote, “admitted to doing three or four robberies,” and said he knew there was a gun in the car the night of the arrest.

Authorities have charged 27-year-old Ernesto Martinez — the man the officer saw urinating — with possession of a firearm by a felon and carrying a concealed firearm in a vehicle. Martinez has one prior conviction in Alameda County, from July, for assault by means likely to produce great bodily injury.

The fourth man, who is 18, has not been charged, and no further information was available about the 15-year-old due to privacy laws that protect minors. Police said in court papers that he was taken to Juvenile Hall in connection with the gun. All five people who were arrested are from Oakland, Montgomery said.

In one of the cases police believe may be tied to the crew, three people robbed a man on Arch Street just south of Hilgard Avenue at 10:19 p.m. Friday. Two of the robbers had knives. In another incident, Monday just before 1 a.m., two people “put a knife” to a man’s throat at Parker Street just east of College Avenue, then took the man’s backpack. Later that night, at 10:40 p.m., two men robbed a woman at knifepoint in the 1600 block of Oxford Street.

Montgomery said photographs of the men were not available for release because the investigation is ongoing.