Berkeley police: Man dragged in Elmwood robbery, Tesla camera helps solve burglary series, more

Berkeleyside regularly reports on notable Berkeley crimes, which include incidents that involve violence or weapons, or that readers have asked about. In 2018, the Berkeley Police Department handled about 73,000 incidents and made more than 2,000 arrests. Every month, there are 200-300 Part 1 crimes in Berkeley. Most Part 1 crimes, which are the categories tracked by the FBI, are serious felonies. Arrestees are innocent until proven guilty.

MAN DRAGGED DURING ROBBERY A 27-year-old Berkeley man walking in the Elmwood neighborhood Tuesday night was knocked down and dragged — first by hand and then about 70-100 feet by vehicle — by robbers who took his backpack, police report. The man was walking south on College Avenue near Woolsey Street just after 8 p.m. when two people approached him. One of them grabbed him by the throat and knocked him to the ground, BPD said. Lt. David Lindenau of the Berkeley Police Department said the man’s arms “were still in the straps of the backpack, so the suspects dragged him” — along with the bag — to a getaway vehicle. The robbers drove off, Lindenau said, “still dragging the victim until he was able to free himself from his backpack. He sustained abrasions to his back and hands.” Wednesday afternoon, after publication, BPD said one of the robbers was described as a black man in his late teens or early 20s, possibly wearing a green hooded top.

PROBATIONER CHARGED WITH EARLY-MORNING BURGLARY ATTEMPT A Berkeley man who had fallen asleep on his couch in late April woke up at 4:30 a.m. to the sound of someone trying to push open his front door. When the man looked outside, he saw someone walking away. The resident, who lives in the 2200 block of Blake Street (near Fulton Street), called 911. His surveillance footage showed a man “walking to and from the front door,” police wrote in court papers.

Officers detained 38-year-old probationer Vanderrick Vickers Jr. about a block away “wearing the same distinct matching clothing” as the man in the video, according to BPD, of the April 26 call for service. Vickers is on felony probation in Alameda County for burglary, according to court documents, and “has numerous prior arrests for late night/early morning burglaries with the same MO of checking door handles for unlocked residences or sheds.” Two of those arrests happened earlier this year in Berkeley, according to court papers.


Vickers has been charged with one count of felony attempted home burglary, according to court documents, as well as the special allegation that someone was home at the time of the burglary. Special allegations can result in stiffer sentences in the case of conviction.

Vickers already has 12 felony convictions, for false imprisonment by violence, possession of a firearm by a felon and numerous property crimes, according to court records. He remains in custody and is set for a pretrial hearing Thursday. He is ineligible for release due to the probation violation.

GPS MONITOR AND TESLA CAMERA HELP CRACK AUTO BURGLARY SERIES A convicted rapist — who also happens to be required by law to wear a GPS monitor because he’s on parole — is back in jail facing new charges after an investigation into several auto burglaries and damage to two Teslas in April and December, according to court papers.

April 3, police wrote, a 2018 Tesla with external cameras “clearly recorded” Derrick Conerly as he broke the Tesla’s window. The auto burglary took place at Ashby and College avenues at 7:10 a.m., according to CrimeMapping.com, an online repository for Berkeley police data. The external camera on the Tesla led police to Conerly and his GPS unit “placed him at the scene of the burglary at the time it was committed,” police wrote.

During a parole search of Conerly’s room in Oakland, authorities found the clothing he wore during the Tesla burglary, according to BPD. And three associates identified Conerly as the man in the Tesla surveillance video, BPD said.

BPD had already identified Conerly in December as a suspect in four auto burglary reports in West Berkeley, according to court papers. On Dec. 21, BPD got those reports, along with two reports of suspicious people casing vehicles, over a four-hour period.

In one of those reports, a witness told police Conerly got into the passenger seat of a vehicle after he was spotted “looking into vehicles” in the Whole Foods parking lot at about 6:10 p.m., according to court documents. When police got to the scene, they detained the driver and Conerly “and noticed that Conerly matched the description from a prior auto burglary” and previous auto casing reports, police wrote.


BPD searched the pair’s vehicle and found stolen property — including a laptop, a wine bottle, gift cards and other items — from an auto burglary that day at 10th and Camelia streets, according to court papers. Officers also found broken glass in the getaway car, “which is consistent with the auto burglary reports,” as the culprit had smashed the vehicle windows in those incidents, according to police.

Police arrested Conerly and the other man, who was identified as Richard “Ricky” Joseph, according to BPD. Joseph told police, after receiving a Miranda warning, that he had driven around Berkeley that day “to commit auto burglaries to get extra money for Christmas,” according to court papers.

According to BPD, Conerly’s ankle monitor put him near all the auto burglary and casing reports. And video footage from Dec. 21 caught Joseph’s vehicle in the 1800 block of Fourth Street at the time of an auto burglary there, police wrote.

On April 18, the Alameda County district attorney’s office charged Conerly with three auto burglaries from Dec. 21 and the April 3 Tesla burglary and vandalism — all of which are felonies — along with the misdemeanor charge of damaging the Tesla that day, according to charging documents. Joseph was charged with one felony crime for one of the Dec. 21 auto burglaries.

Joseph has four felony convictions for the sale or transportation of controlled substances. He does not appear to be in custody, and his next court date was not available in records online.

Conerly has felony convictions for forcible rape while acting in concert, failure to register as a sex offender, evading an officer, vehicle theft and possession of a controlled substance, among other crimes, according to court papers. He is being held without bail due to the parole violation and is set for a pretrial hearing June 4.


PAIR CHARGED IN IDENTITY THEFT CASE A man from Oakland and a woman from Pittsburg have been charged with several felonies related to identity theft after a Berkeley police lieutenant on patrol spotted them parked in South Berkeley in the middle of the night. Lt. David Lindenau was on patrol at about 12:30 a.m. April 23 at Otis Street and Ashby Avenue when he saw people later identified as Neddy Castellanos, 44, and Elicia Alvarez, 35, sitting in a vehicle without license plates, he wrote in court papers. Both are on probation, so police searched the pair and their vehicle. During the search, police found burglary tools, heroin and a Taser, along with “multiple checkbooks, checks, debit/credit cards, identifications, fraudulent identifications, packaging materials, and multiple digital scales,” according to court papers.

Lindenau wrote that he was able to identify more than 10 victims of identity theft and that Castellanos has a prior conviction for ID theft. Police also found Castellanos with three stolen checks he had made out to himself, police wrote, totaling more than $4,000.

Castellanos was charged with forgery and fraudulent possession of personal information by a convict. Both are felonies. Alvarez was charged with the fraudulent possession of the personal information of more than 10 people. Both were charged with misdemeanor possession of burglary tools and Castellanos also was charged with misdemeanor possession of heroin.

Castellanos has a long list of convictions dating back to 2005, according to court papers.

Castellanos is being held on $160,000 bail and Alvarez has a bail of $40,000. Both remain in custody at Santa Rita Jail in Dublin and are scheduled for a pretrial hearing June 5.

CONTRACTOR’S PHOTO HELPS SOLVE TOOL BURGLARY A man police say stole more than $2,000 worth of tools from an empty Berkeley home has been charged with burglary and grand theft, according to court papers. The contractor who owned those tools showed up to see the thief leaving and photographed him driving away in a van, police wrote.

Officers used the evidence to track the suspect to an RV in Oakland, police wrote. The burglary happened April 19 at 4:30 p.m. in the 2400 block of Eighth Street (near Channing Way), according to BPD records online.

The contractor’s photograph led police to identify 61-year-old Andre Cox as the van’s registered owner. A records check of Cox then helped police narrow the search to the 3200 block of Linden Street in Oakland, where there had been a disturbance call involving Cox, police wrote. When officers went to that location, they found Cox living in his RV, which was parked by the van that had been used in the Berkeley burglary, police wrote in court documents. When officers arrived, police said, Cox was wearing the same jacket he had worn during the burglary on Eighth Street.

Police said Cox confessed to taking the tools after being advised of his Miranda rights. The contractor identified Cox in a line-up, according to court papers. Cox is no longer in custody but was charged in early May with felony burglary and grand theft, which is also a felony. According to court papers, Cox has a conviction for burglary from 2006. A new conviction would be a second strike. Cox is set to return to court June 19 for a pretrial hearing.

BROAD DAYLIGHT ROBBERY ON UC BERKELEY CAMPUS The University of California Police Department reported a strong-arm robbery on campus May 21 between California Hall and Moffitt Library. A 21-year-old woman was walking on the path between the two buildings texting on her phone when someone ran up to her from behind and grabbed her $1,000 Google Pixel 3 at 2:25 p.m. According to the UCPD blotter, the thief was described as black, high-school age, 5 feet 5 inches tall with short hair, wearing a navy blue hoodie, blue jeans and white shoes.

NO CHARGES AFTER ATTACK WITH BOARD AND PEPPER SPRAY Police arrested a 24-year-old man May 6 after responding to a report of an altercation in the 2400 block of Bancroft Way (near Dana Street) at 11:52 p.m. When they arrived, police found a 51-year-old man who had been attacked by two people: pepper-sprayed by one and struck in the head with a wooden board by another.

Police arrested the man who had used the board as a weapon, according to BPD. Neither he nor the injured man gave police a city of residence. Paramedics took the injured man to the hospital for his head injury and exposure to pepper spray, BPD reported.

The other assailant left the scene before police could arrest him. BPD described him as a white man in his 20s or 30s, about 5 feet 9 inches tall, with a medium build and long dreadlocks. The 24-year-old man is not in custody and has not been charged, according to records online.

BART Police at the downtown Berkeley station (file photo). Photo: Emilie Raguso

BART PD: KEEP PHONES SAFE WHEN TRAIN DOORS OPEN The BART Police Department said it detained 10 youth, ages 14-16, in connection with a series of electronics thefts May 7. In a prepared statement, the agency advised BART riders to “keep a close eye on their cellphones” due to a “surge” in mobile phone thefts in San Francisco between the Glen Park and Powell Street stations.

BART police detained the teens at three stations: West Oakland, 12th Street Oakland and Powell Street. Two of the youth were taken to juvenile hall on suspicion of attempted robbery while the rest were identified and released to their parents. BART PD said investigators were “working to determine how many thefts the juveniles are responsible for.”

BART Police Chief Ed Alvarez said in the statement that he is assigning as many officers as he can to the problem, while adding that riders “should regularly look up from their devices, so they can see what’s happening near them and avoid having their phones out when the doors open for their trains.”

Most cellphone thefts on BART, he said in the prepared statement, are “crimes of opportunity.” BART PD said weapons were not used and no injuries had been reported.

(Note: This crime round-up was based primarily on independent research by Berkeleyside, not BPD’s “cases of community interest” report. Also, the Elmwood robbery happened at about 8 p.m., not 10 p.m. Berkeleyside corrected the story after publication to reflect this. BPD released several additional details about the Elmwood robbery after publication and Berkeleyside has added those to the story.)