Berkeley police: Cellphone and laptop grabs, angry postal worker, gunfire

Berkeley Police station. Photo: Emilie Raguso

The Berkeley Police Department released the following “cases of community interest” Tuesday. Information appears below as BPD released it with minor edits to comply with Berkeleyside style. 

On Jan. 15 at 9:55 p.m., a woman was walking on Milvia Street between Channing Way and Durant Avenue using her cellphone when she was approached by three male teenagers. One of them grabbed the woman’s cellphone from her hand and the group ran away. Witnesses described them as African American, 14-18 years old, 5’3” to 6’ tall — two wore dark hooded sweatshirts and the third wore a red hooded sweatshirt.

On Jan. 17 at 1:25 p.m., a woman was sitting inside Sack’s Coffee House (2701 College Ave.) near the front door working on her laptop when a man walked inside, grabbed her laptop and ran westbound on Derby Street. Witnesses described him as African American, in his mid-20s, about 5’10” tall and wearing a blue hooded sweatshirt and gray pants.

On Jan. 17 at about 5 p.m., a woman was walking her dog in Live Oak Park using her cellphone when someone (unknown gender or race) approached her from behind, placed her in a “headlock” and tried to take her phone. Screaming for help, the assailant pushed the woman to the ground, wrestled the phone away from her and ran away to a light-colored vehicle.


On Jan. 18 at 9:56 p.m., officers responded to a residence on 2000 block of Bancroft Way on a report of an in-progress burglary. Watching from a live video surveillance feed, the caller relayed information about two intruders to responding officers. Just as the pair was reversing out of the driveway, officers stopped the vehicle. When officers searched the vehicle, they located several pieces of stolen property. Johnny Wolchow (33, homeless) and Noelle Knotts (37, of San Francisco) were arrested on suspicion of burglary and possession of stolen property. Wolchow also was arrested for violation of parole and probation.

Johnny Wolchow and Noelle Knotts. Photos: BPD

On Jan. 19 at 10:15 p.m., officers responded to the Berkeley Way parking lot (2000 block of Berkeley Way) on a report of an intoxicated man who was punching people. When officers arrived, they found a 65-year-old woman who had been punched in the face several times while she was about to drive from the lot. With the description that had been provided, officers located the assailant a block away. The woman was evaluated at the scene by medical personnel for bruising on her face. An additional victim reported that the assailant had kicked him in the thigh while he was walking on Berkeley Way earlier, but he declined to press charges. Jesse Miller, 45, of San Ramon was arrested on suspicion of felony battery, elder abuse, possession of controlled substances, resisting arrest and disorderly conduct. Inside Berkeley jail, staff discovered a quantity of psilocybin mushrooms and Oxycodone on his person so he was also arrested on suspicion of bringing a controlled substance inside a jail.

On Jan. 21 at 9:05 p.m., a woman was in the outside seating area of Café Strada (2300 College Ave.) with her laptop when a stranger walked to her table, grabbed her laptop and ran westbound on Bancroft Way. Witnesses described him as unknown race male, about 5’10” tall, wearing a black hooded sweatshirt and pants.

On Jan. 22 at 5:37 p.m., two young men entered Sack’s Coffee House (2701 College Ave.) and grabbed laptops from two people sitting near the front door. They ran westbound on Derby Street. Witnesses described the pair as African American, 18-20 years old and about 5’10” tall.

On Wednesday between 12:30 a.m. and 1 a.m., a man was in the 2300 block of Dana Street talking on his cellphone when two people ran up to him and tried to take his phone and bag. Though the man was able to hold onto his phone, the duo ran away with his bag containing his camera and laptop. (No suspect description was provided.)

On Wednesday at 1:28 a.m., a man was walking on the 2300 block of Fulton Street when he was approached by a man who engaged him in a conversation. Suddenly, the stranger pushed his hand out through his jacket pocket as if he had a weapon and demanded his property. Fearing for his safety, the man relinquished his wallet and the suspect fled. Witnesses described the robber as African American, in his mid-20s, about 5’11” tall, with a thin build, wearing a dark-colored jacket and baseball cap.

On Wednesday at 4:40 p.m., a man stole a laptop from a customer inside Starbucks (2128 Oxford St.) and ran away. Though the customer left before officers could contact him, witnesses described the thief as African American, 18-22 years old, 5’9” to 6’4” tall, wearing a dark hooded sweatshirt with baggy pants.


On Wednesday at 6:05 p.m., a resident returned to his apartment in the 2100 block of Channing Way and discovered that his lights were on and the security chain was latched from the inside. Thinking someone was inside his apartment, the resident called BPD. When officers arrived and entered the apartment, they discovered a stranger staying inside. Further investigation revealed that man had also burglarized other apartments as well. Marquis Okoronkwo, 23, homeless, was arrested on suspicion of burglary, possession of stolen property and violation of probation.

On Thursday at 1:21 p.m., a man was talking on his cellphone in an alcove in the 2300 block of Shattuck Avenue when someone approached him from behind, slapped his face, grabbed the cellphone from his hands and ran away. Witnesses described the assailant as African American, possibly a juvenile, wearing a gray hooded sweatshirt.

On Friday at 8:14 p.m., a woman was walking on the 1100 block of Hearst Avenue when she was approached by a man holding a handgun. He demanded her property, but allowed her to leave after she pleaded with him. Based on the description given, officers located the man the following day near University Avenue and Seventh Street. Jamelle Flippin, 32, of Clayton, was arrested on suspicion of robbery and other theft-related charges.

On Friday at 11 p.m., a woman was walking on College Avenue approaching Bancroft Way with friends when a man ran up from behind her and grabbed her phone from her hands. He then ran eastbound on Bancroft Way. Witnesses described him as African American, in his mid-20s, about 5’8” tall, wearing layered clothing and a dark beanie cap.

On Saturday at 2:23 a.m., officers responded to the area of King and 62nd streets after receiving reports of gunfire in the area. Officers located bullet casings on the 1600 block of 62nd Street but did not locate any injured people.

On Saturday at 3:42 a.m., an officer spotted a vehicle driving recklessly in the area of Sacramento Street and Ashby Avenue. The officer was eventually able to stop the vehicle on the 2800 block of Acton Street, where he discovered that the driver was intoxicated and had a suspended license. When the officer searched the vehicle, he discovered a loaded handgun with an illegal high-capacity magazine. Further investigation of the handgun revealed that it had previously been reported as stolen to San Mateo PD. The driver — Ryan Romero, 28, of Berkeley — was arrested on suspicion of reckless driving, driving on suspended license, driving under the influence, possession of loaded concealed firearm, being a felon in possession of a firearm, and evading the police.


On Saturday at 4:31 p.m., a resident was inside his home in the 2600 block of Sacramento Street when he was startled by the sound of something being thrown at his front door. When he went to investigate, he saw that there was a package at his door. Seeing the postal carrier across the street, the resident walked over and asked him not to throw his packages. The postal carrier responded by cursing and threatening the resident, who ran back to his home and called 911, police said. While inside making the call, the postal carrier entered the residence and started recording him with his cellphone — threatening that he now knows who he is, according to BPD. Officers located the postal carrier, Lamonte Earnest, 44, of Berkeley, a block away and arrested him on suspicion of making criminal threats as well as an outstanding arrest warrant from another agency for animal cruelty. [Update, Jan. 31: Berkeleyside did additional reporting on this story and has posted an update.]

On Saturday at 8:39 p.m., three men were sitting on park benches near the M Dock at the marina when they were approached by two men with dogs. One of them pulled out a handgun and demanded property from the trio. After taking their bag and wallet, the robbers ran to a vehicle and drove off. Witnesses described them as Hispanic, 25-30 years old, 5’10” tall — one wearing a dark-colored hooded sweatshirt and the other wearing a red hooded sweatshirt.

On Saturday at 9 p.m., a man was seated near the front doors of Udupi Palace (1903 University Ave.) using his laptop when a young man walked over, grabbed the laptop and ran out of the store. Witnesses described the thief as African American, 16-20 years old, about 5’8” tall, wearing a dark-colored hooded sweatshirt and jeans.

On Sunday at 8:47 p.m., officers responded to the area of San Pablo Park after receiving reports of gunfire in the area. Officers located bullet casings at the park, but did not locate any injured people.

On Sunday at 2:11 p.m., a man was sitting at a table inside McDonald’s (1998 Shattuck Ave.) using his cellphone when a man came up to him and tapped him on the shoulder. Now having the man’s attention, he grabbed the man’s head and shook it back and forth. The robber then grabbed the man’s cellphone and ran away. Witnesses described him as African American, in his 20s, 5’10” tall and wearing long pants.

On Monday at 7:30 p.m., a woman was sitting at an outside table of Sweetgreen’s (1890 Shattuck Avenue) talking with a friend when a stranger walked over, grabbed her backpack and ran away. Witnesses described him as African American, 6’ tall, with a thin build, wearing dark clothing.

Available booking photos were added after publication. Three photos were not released because the cases are still under investigation, BPD said.