Crime round-up: Robberies, $7,000 cigarette heist, BHS student with gun

The Berkeley police station (file photo). Photo: Kaia Diringer

Berkeleyside has been collecting notable arrests and details on other public safety incidents in 2019 in response to reader tips and independent research. They appear below in addition to a number of recent “cases of community interest” compiled by the Berkeley Police Department. As a side note, many readers have noticed we no longer publish a regular crime blotter. That’s because it took many hours to compile each week due to the extensive sources we consulted to ensure the report was comprehensive and accurate. We hope to bring it back one day if time allows.

Gun calls

ASSAULT RIFLE An officer discovered a concealed assault rifle during a vehicle search at the Berkeley Marina on Saturday at 7:10 a.m., authorities report. Initially, the officer had witnessed a traffic violation and stopped the driver on Seawall Drive. During the subsequent search of the vehicle, the officer found the firearm. Police arrested 37-year-old Brian Mentheum Cooper of Berkeley on suspicion of carrying a concealed assault rifle. Police said they could not release his booking photo “because there is additional investigative follow-up” underway. Cooper, a carpenter, is no longer in custody, according to Alameda County jail records online. No further information was immediately available about the status of the case in court records online.

FOUND GUN A person found a loaded handgun in the bushes in the 2700 block of Milvia Street (near Derby Street*) on Friday at 10:30 a.m.

BHS STUDENT WITH GUN Police arrested a 17-year-old Berkeley High School student when authorities found him with an unloaded firearm, according to BPD. The student was leaving campus Jan. 18 at about 10:35 a.m. when he ran from the school resource officer, BPD said. The student “was known to have a warrant for his arrest,” authorities said, in response to a Berkeleyside inquiry about the incident. Authorities detained the student, a Berkeley resident, away from the BHS campus at an undisclosed location and found him with the gun, BPD said. The student was arrested and taken to Juvenile Hall in San Leandro. His name was not released because of privacy laws that protect minors. (Update: Police said after publication that the arrest happened at Channing Way and McKinley Avenue.)


Lots of robberies, few arrests

A man knocked a cyclist to the ground Friday at 4:30 p.m. and rode off on the man’s rented Ford GoBike, authorities report. The cyclist had stopped at the westbound signal of Hearst Avenue and Milvia Street when a stranger knocked him off the bike, authorities said. Witnesses said they did not know the man’s race, but described him as about 6 feet tall with dreadlocks, a black hooded sweatshirt and light blue jeans.

Earlier that day, a 51-year-old woman was injured when someone ran up to her and grabbed her purse, causing her to fall and sustain cuts and bruises, police said. The woman was walking into La Quina Inn at 920 University Ave. (near Eighth Street) just before 7:45 a.m. Friday when the robber snatched the purse, according to police. Witnesses described him as a black male (no age provided) in dark clothing. He jumped into a getaway vehicle parked on University Avenue. The driver “sped off,” police said, then struck a vehicle at Eighth and Cedar streets. The woman said she was in pain after the robbery but declined emergency medical assistance, BPD said.

Two men punched and kicked a 27-year-old pedestrian during a robbery Thursday at about 9 p.m. in the 2700 block of Fulton Street (near Derby Street), authorities report. The man was walking on Fulton when two people came up behind him and snatched his phone from his hand. They tried to take his backpack, but he held onto it, police said. The men knocked him to the ground, “then punched and kicked the man to get him to let go of the backpack.” A getaway vehicle pulled up moments later and the men jumped inside as the driver left. Witnesses described the robbers as black men in their 20s; one had dreadlocks and wore dark clothes while the other had a thin build and wore a light-colored jacket and white shoes, police said. The victim declined medical help but had pain and bruising from the robbery, police said.

Some of the crime reports in Berkeley in 2019: red markers show gun calls; blue markers show robberies; yellow markers show armed robberies; and green markers show grand thefts. Image: Google Maps/Berkeleyside

A robber threatened a man at gunpoint after the man discovered the stranger in his truck “rummaging through the back seat,” police report. On Jan. 30 at 11:50 a.m., the man was standing in the 1800 block of 62nd Street (near Dover Street) when he saw someone inside his vehicle, which was parked nearby. The man yelled at the stranger who then pointed a gun at him. The truck owner ran away but the stranger pursued him, police said. When he tripped and fell, the stranger pointed the gun at him again and threatened him before walking back to the truck and stealing some items from it. The stranger drove away in a nearby vehicle that police later determined to have been stolen sometime earlier. Witnesses said the man with the gun was black, in his 30s and about 5 feet, 10 inches tall. He wore a black T-shirt and jeans, police said.

Two men with a gun robbed a local resident in the 3100 block of Ellis Street (near Prince Street) on Jan. 31 just before 7:50 p.m. The men approached the resident as he stood outside, then pulled out a gun and ordered him to give them his property. The men left when he complied, police said. Witnesses said one of the robbers was black with light skin, 18-19 years old and 5’9″ to 5’10” inches tall. He wore a black hooded sweatshirt and dark pants. No further description was provided.

Police arrested three teenagers from Richmond after they reportedly grabbed a woman’s phone from her hand on Sacramento Street between Virginia and Cedar streets. Police said the woman was walking Feb. 2 at 6:40 p.m. when the minors took the phone and ran. Police found two of the boys, ages 14 and 15, near Holly Street and Buena Avenue, authorities report. They found the third boy, 15 years old, near Ohlone Park. All three were arrested on suspicion of robbery and possession of stolen property, according to police. Their names were not released because they are minors.

A woman who claimed to have a gun robbed a woman using the Chase bank ATM at 2150 Shattuck Ave. (at Center Street) on Feb. 4 at 10:10 a.m., authorities report. The stranger approached the woman and, once the bills had been dispensed, said she had a gun. She demanded the woman’s money, took it, then walked away. Witnesses described the robber, who wore a maroon or burgundy jacket, as white, 50-55 years old, 5’4″ to 5’5″ inches tall with a heavy build. Update, Feb. 13: BPD officers identified and arrested 52-year-old Sabrina Elizondo on Feb. 6 on suspicion of robbery and other drug-related charges, as well as probation violation. According to Alameda County jail records online, Elizondo was convicted in 2017 in a felony robbery case involving a deadly weapon. She was convicted in two other felony cases in the county that year, too. Elizondo is being held without bail at Santa Rita Jail in Dublin and is scheduled to enter a plea Feb. 22, according to court records online. She was charged with first-degree ATM robbery, a felony, as well as the special allegation of being on felony probation at the time of the recent robbery. The special allegation of having a prior conviction for a violent felony also was listed. If convicted in the new case, it would be a second strike, according to charging documents. Elizondo’s city of residence was unknown as of publication time.


Grand thefts

A thief grabbed an unattended laptop from an outside table at Caffè Strada, 2300 College Ave. at Bancroft Way, last week, authorities report. A man had been working at his computer “when he had to step away briefly,” police said. A stranger ran up and snatched the computer, then ran west on Bancroft. He got into a nearby parked car. Witnesses said the thief was 5 feet, 9 inches tall with a medium build. They did not know his race.

Two men in their 20s each took a laptop from women using their computers at Philz Coffee in West Berkeley on Feb. 1 at noon, authorities report. The men took the laptops, ran out of the shop, at 1313 Ninth St. at Gilman Street, and got into a vehicle that was double-parked outside. Witnesses said the men were Hispanic and stood 5’7″ to 5’10” inches tall. One wore black pants and a jacket that was black and white, while the other wore sweatpants and a sweatshirt that were dark in color.

Police arrested two men and a teenage boy in late January after they grabbed a backpack from the ground as its owner stood nearby, authorities report. On Jan. 29 just before 5:30 p.m., the man was waiting at a bus stop at Shattuck Avenue and Woolsey Street and had put his backpack on the ground beside him. A stranger ran up and took the bag, which contained the man’s laptop, then ran to a nearby vehicle and drove off. (A Berkeleyside reader described the vehicle as a Mustang convertible.) Albany police spotted that vehicle at Marin and Santa Fe avenues and stopped it, police said. BPD investigated further and arrested all three occupants on suspicion of grand theft, possession of stolen property and conspiracy. Police said they found the stolen laptop in the vehicle. Police identified the arrested individuals as 23-year-old Ronald Steven Swanson III of Richmond, 19-year-old Imara Jobali Hutton Jr. of El Sobrante, and a 17-year-old from Richmond whose name was not provided because he is a minor. BPD said there is still investigative work being done so they could not share booking photos of either man. Hutton was charged by the Alameda County district attorney’s office with three separate counts of grand theft — two from Jan. 23 and one from Jan. 29, and Swanson was charged with one count of grand theft, from Jan. 29, according to court records. Neither man is listed in custody any longer, according to county jail records online.

Other notable arrests

DISORDERLY CONDUCT Police arrested a probationer said to have thrown a woman to the ground and struck people with a broom in late January, authorities report. A downtown Berkeley worker asked Berkeleyside to find out about the incident after an employee witnessed what appeared to be a man “on a rampage attacking pedestrians. The suspect pushed an elderly female down onto the ground and then used a broom to attack another female in a wheelchair and tried pushing her over. The wheelchair didn’t tip over but the suspect then used the end of the broom to swing at her face and hit her with it.” Officer Byron White, BPD spokesman, said officers initially responded, Jan. 31 at about 1 p.m., to the 2000 block of University Avenue (near Milvia Street) for a report of a shirtless man who had broken a window at a hair salon and was “swinging a broom at vehicles.” As officers approached the area, callers told BPD the man had attacked a woman and used the broom to hit people. Officers detained the man near Center and Milvia streets on suspicion of vandalism, disorderly conduct and violation of probation. Police identified him as 42-year-old homeless man Eddie Lee Fontenette. He also was arrested in Berkeley in 2016 after a felony sexual assault. Fontenette is being held without bail, at the East County Hall of Justice in Dublin, due to the violation of his community release requirements, according to jail records online. His next court hearing is set for Friday.

DISTURBANCE A man who tried to smoke marijuana inside a Southside Berkeley business last week “pulled out a sharp bladed rod and challenged the staff to a fight” after they interrupted him, authorities report. Officers responded to Taco Bell Cantina at 2528 Durant Ave. (near Bowditch Street) on a report that the man had brandished a knife when workers stopped him from smoking marijuana and asked him to leave, said BPD. The man got angry, took out the rod and tried to start a fight, police said. Officers said they found the rod and methamphetamine when they searched the man after detaining him. They arrested the man, Jose Mejia Chavez, on suspicion of exhibiting a deadly weapon, possession of controlled substances and narcotics paraphernalia, probation violation and an outstanding arrest warrant. BPD did not have the 32-year-old man’s city of residence. Chavez remains in custody at Santa Rita Jail in Dublin with a bail of $10,000, according to court records online. His next court hearing was not listed as of publication time.

STOLEN CAR CHASE As previously reported by Berkeleyside, a driver police said struck two motorists and rammed a patrol car was arrested in Albany on Thursday after a chase through Berkeley. Edwin Hood, 36, was charged Monday with several felonies including evasion, robbery and vehicle theft, among other violations, according to jail records online. The San Francisco man, who has one strike and works for Admiral Security, is being held at Santa Rita Jail on $275,000 bail, according to Alameda County jail records. He is set to enter a plea Wednesday.


AUTO BURGLARY CASE A Berkeley man charged in January with two counts of auto burglary from break-ins in late 2018 is set to be sentenced in the case next week, according to court records online. Police arrested Kenneth Hendon, 20, on a warrant in early January from the Nov. 29 and Dec. 1 auto burglaries, which involved two separate victims, according to court records. Police wrote that Hendon “was captured on video surveillance for a series of auto burglaries” near his home in the 1700 block of Alcatraz Avenue. BPD searched the home Dec. 1 not long after another auto burglary nearby on Harper Street, according to police. “The search revealed multiple confirmed stolen items” from five separate South Berkeley auto burglaries, police wrote. The items included a laptop taken “via window smash” from a car parked at Berkeley Bowl and a North Face bag — taken Dec. 1 from a vehicle parked near 3200 Adeline St. — that was found under Hendon’s bed, police wrote. A laptop that had been inside the bag was missing, however. Hendon entered not guilty pleas in the case Jan. 15, according to court records online, and is now being held at Santa Rita Jail on $130,000 bail.

BPD also arrested Hendon last year in June in connection with laptop theft. In that case, BPD said at the time, a customer was working on a laptop on the patio of Caffè Strada when a stranger “stole it from under their typing hands” June 26 around 10:30 a.m. Witnesses gave officers a description of the culprit and his getaway vehicle, BPD said, which led detectives to the man’s identity. Several days later, June 30, police spotted the man — identified as Hendon — in the 1700 block of Alcatraz. They arrested him on suspicion of robbery. On July 5, Hendon was charged with grand theft. He entered a not guilty plea July 16. The outcome of that case is not listed in online records and may be ongoing.

BPD released surveillance video of the June 26 Caffè Strada theft. It appears below.

At the time police released the video, BPD said it wanted to “remind everyone to remain aware and alert while using their laptops in public spaces. If you have to leave your seating space, consider taking your laptop with you or have someone you really trust watch it for you.”

LEWD ACT UPON A CHILD An Oakland man was charged in January with committing a lewd act upon an 8-year-old girl in Berkeley, according to court records. Victor Frieson was charged Jan. 3 with the single felony count, alleged to have taken place between March and April 2017. BPD initially received the suspected child abuse report in April 2017. According to court papers, Frieson woke the little girl up one night and touched her below the waist beneath her clothing. When the girl’s parents confronted him, police wrote, he denied the allegations. In July 2017, BPD issued a warrant for Frieson’s arrest. Emeryville PD arrested Frieson on Dec. 31, 2018, for the Berkeley warrant. The next day, during a BPD police interview, he admitted he pulled down the girl’s pants and touched her, police wrote. Frieson entered a not guilty plea Jan. 23 and is no longer in custody after posting a bond for $50,000 bail, according to court records. He is scheduled for a pretrial hearing Feb. 28 at the Rene C. Davidson Courthouse in downtown Oakland.

$1M WARRANT The BART Police arrested 48-year-old Abdul Khan of Oakland on Feb. 2 just after 6:45 p.m. at the downtown Berkeley BART station on suspicion of fare evasion. Police then learned he had a $1 million warrant from another agency for a shooting, according to BART PD. Berkeley PD said the shooting took place somewhere other than Berkeley. Khan was initially held at Berkeley Jail but is no longer in custody in Alameda County, according to records online. No further information was immediately available.

LEWD ACT UPON A CHILD A transgender man has been charged with one felony count of committing a lewd act upon a little girl in 2018, according to court papers. Tobias Sebastian-Hero Goodliffe, a 38-year-old student in Oakland, was arrested in Suisun City on Jan. 1 as part of a “BPD surveillance operation,” police wrote. Spokesman White said BPD’s Special Victims Unit “conducted an extensive investigation” into the child abuse case. A Berkeley father made the molestation allegations against Goodliffe, a family friend, Dec. 29, police wrote in court papers. The man told police both his daughters, ages 7 and 8, said Goodliffe molested them during a time when he sometimes babysat them. One of the girls said he made her sit on his lap and that he touched her private parts over her clothing. She told police she felt a “stick or something” when she sat on his lap, and BPD noted that — according to the girls’ father — “Goodliffe likes to wear a strap-on-dildo (sic) under his clothing as part of his now male identity.” The other daughter said Goodliffe made her lie down on him while he touched her bottom over her clothes, according to police.

When police stopped Goodliffe in Suisun City, he had a loaded gun with him in the car, which he voluntarily disclosed to police, they said. (The weapon was found to be registered to him.) During a vehicle search, police wrote that they also found 28 pills of suspected ecstasy — which later “tested positive for methamphetamines” (sic), suspected marijuana and a strap-on dildo. Goodliffe, who is listed in Alameda County court records as Kristin, was released from custody on $100,000 bail and is scheduled for a pretrial hearing March 4 at the Rene Davidson Courthouse. He entered a “not guilty” plea in the case Jan. 8, according to court records online.

BURGLARY ARREST UPDATE Police report that they have linked a man already facing robbery charges to three commercial burglaries in January. As previously reported on Berkeleyside, police arrested Edward Clark, 60, of Oakland on suspicion of burglary, robbery, and violation of probation on Jan. 9 after receiving multiple reports about a man with a gun. When officers arrived, they were told a man with a gun had stolen a laptop from someone inside a business in the 2900 block of San Pablo Avenue (near Russell Street). When the man ran off, several people followed him and alerted police. After a brief search, officers said they found the man hiding in an apartment complex in the 2800 block of Eighth Street (near Grayson Street). Police also located the stolen laptop as well as the reported gun, which turned out to be fake.

Spokesman White later told Berkeleyside detectives have linked Clark to three other burglaries: two in late October at JFK University at 2942 San Pablo Ave. (near Russell Street) and one Jan. 2 at 932 Parker St. (near Eighth Street). BPD said Clark smashed a window and took four computers from the JFK computer lab, and burglarized an office space on Parker, stealing a computer and wallet.

Clark has at least 18 cases on file in Alameda County, according to court records online, dating back to 1982. His convictions run the gamut from robbery and burglary to assault with a firearm and forgery. UCPD arrested Clark in 2014 in connection with a series of auto burglaries on the UC Berkeley campus. He was charged with six felony counts of auto burglary in that case, according to court records online, but took a plea and ultimately was sentenced to two years at San Quentin Prison.

REPEAT OFFENDER BACK IN TROUBLE A man who was just arrested in January after being charged with failure to register as a sex offender has been arrested in Berkeley again on suspicion of auto theft, according to jail records. Police arrested Harry Long Jr., 59, Saturday just before 3:20 p.m. on suspicion of vehicle theft. (The location of his arrest was not available because both of BPD’s public-facing online records reporting systems have stalled. Berkeleyside has requested a fix.) In addition to the four recent felony and misdemeanor charges for failure to register as a sex offender, court records show that Long has prior convictions for rape, oral copulation and extortion, in addition to other offenses. In 1992, according to the state Megan’s Law database, when Long was in his early 30s, he was convicted of oral copulation by force or fear with a child under 14. Long’s address on the Megan’s Law website is listed as transient. He is scheduled to be arraigned Wednesday at Wiley Manuel Courthouse in Oakland in the vehicle theft case. Berkeleyside has requested a more recent booking photograph of Long from BPD.

Other items of interest

CAR CRASH BPD reports that an unlicensed teen driver in a Chevy Impala who was southbound on Dana Street at Haste Street collided with a Ford Explorer that was westbound on Haste Street on Sunday around 9 p.m. The Ford Explorer flipped on its side, said spokesman White, and police believe unsafe speed was likely the cause of the collision. Police gave the 16-year-old Vallejo girl driving the Chevy a ticket for being unlicensed and without insurance, White said. The driver of the Ford, a 57-year-old Oakland man, was evaluated at the scene for minor injuries.

CIGARETTE THEFT Two men used a brick to break into a gas station to steal $7,000 in cigarettes, BPD reports. The men broke into the Chevron gas station at 1201 The Alameda (near Hopkins Street) on Friday just before 1:45 a.m. “by throwing a brick through the front window,” authorities said. BPD said surveillance footage indicated that the suspects were two men in dark clothing who got into a white SUV with two other occupants, then fled. White said BPD cannot release the video footage because there is additional investigative work to be done.

2008 RAPE CASE MAKES NEW HEADLINES The lawyer for a 27-year-old Berkeley man charged with sexually assaulting three teenage girls when he was 16 says the case should be dismissed and that it could be the first of its kind in California, according to Bay City News (BCN). Johnny Dunbar is alleged to have broken into the girls’ homes in three separate incidents in 2008 wielding a gun or knife, depending on the event. Authorities say he raped two of the girls but was interrupted before he could rape the third. Dunbar wasn’t arrested until 2016 when police stopped him on a misdemeanor traffic violation. Fingerprints from that traffic stop, along with a DNA match, later helped investigators link Dunbar to the sexual assault series, authorities have said. According to BCN, Alameda County Superior Court Judge Rhonda Burgess has not yet ruled on whether Dunbar should stand trial in adult or juvenile court: “The Alameda County District Attorney’s Office charged Dunbar as an adult on July 7, 2016, but in November 2016 California voters passed Proposition 57, which took away prosecutors’ ability to charge minors accused of serious crimes such as murder and rape directly in adult court.” Dunbar is being held without bail at Santa Rita Jail in Dublin, according to county records online. He is set to appear in court for the next hearing in the case March 1.

* Berkeleyside has estimated all cross-streets that appear in parentheses in response to previous reader requests. In those instances, BPD provided only a block number so locations may be approximate.