Crime roundup: Sexual battery series, reptile theft attempt, garage attack, more

A man who tried to steal reptiles from the East Bay Vivarium has been charged with commercial burglary. Photo: mariejirousek

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.

ARMED ROBBERY Armed robbers struck early Thursday morning in the Southside neighborhood, the Berkeley Police Department reports. The men first tried to rob a man and woman who ran away from them, then targeted and successfully robbed a man who was alone nearby. At about 3:40 a.m., police responded to a robbery attempt in the 2400 block of Bancroft Way (near Dana Street): A 21-year-old Berkeley man and a 23-year-old Berkeley woman “reported being chased by two suspects,” police said in a Nixle alert. “The man and woman were able to run away from the suspects before there could be any confrontation.” Ten minutes later, however, three people confronted a 56-year-old Berkeley man while he was in an off-street parking lot in the 2500 block of Durant (near Telegraph Avenue). One of the men pointed a gun at the 56-year-old and took his phone, wallet and money. The robbers, described as black men in their 20s, standing 6 feet 1 inch tall with thin builds, drove off in a light-colored vehicle, police said.

SEXUAL BATTERY SERIES LEADS TO CHARGES A 24-year-old Berkeley man has been charged in connection with a sexual battery series in July, authorities report. Between Thursday, July 14, and Sunday, police say a man on a bicycle approached five separate women and grabbed them by their buttocks. On Sunday, police arrested William Sanchez-Gomez on suspicion of sexual battery. Police say they spotted Sanchez-Gomez riding his bike near Sacramento Street and Dwight Way at about 6:15 p.m. and arrested him.

The first incident took place July 14 at 9:40 a.m. in the 1900 block of Channing Way (near Shattuck Avenue). The July 25 incident took place at 1:40 p.m. near Francisco and Milvia streets. Two of the sexual batteries took place Friday, at 1:40 p.m. in the 1900 block of Hearst Avenue and at 5:45 p.m. at Hearst Avenue and Grant Street.


The final incident took place Sunday at 5:45 p.m. in the 2000 block of Blake Street (near Milvia Street). According to court papers, Sanchez-Gomez approached the woman from behind and “placed his hands” under her skirt, touching her on the skin. She screamed and chased the man, and later identified him during a line-up, according to court papers. Police did not release the ages or cities of residence of any of the women. They declined to do so due to the nature of the allegations.

According to court papers, Sanchez-Gomez was charged Wednesday in connection with two counts of sexual battery. He is no longer in custody and his next court date was not listed in records online. Police ask anyone with information to call the BPD Sex Crimes Unit at 510-981-5735.

VIOLENT ROBBERY A 32-year-old Oakland man was taken to the hospital with a head injury after a group of five men attacked him and another man in the Telegraph Channing Garage on July 25, authorities report. The attack happened as the two men walked into the garage, at 2450 Durant Ave., at 6:50 p.m.: “While walking from the elevator to their vehicle, 5 male suspects approached the two men and began punching them. When one of the men fell to the ground, the suspects began kicking him. The suspects took a cell phone and wallet and ran away after others in the garage noticed the attack,” said BPD in a prepared statement. Witnesses described one of the assailants as white, about 27 years old, 5 feet 10 inches tall with a heavy build, blond hair, wearing a baseball cap and blue jeans. Witnessed described another suspect as a white or hispanic, about 27 years old, 6 feet tall, wearing a white T-shirt and blue jeans. The other men were described as white and in their 20s.

REPTILE THEFT ATTEMPT A man who tried to steal reptiles early Saturday morning from the East Bay Vivarium has been charged with commercial burglary, according to police and court records online. Police responded to the beloved Fourth Street-neighborhood reptile shop just before 4:20 a.m. when the burglar alarm went off. When they arrived, the door was open and a window had been smashed. When they searched the business, they “found a suspect who was apparently trying to take reptiles,” police said in a statement. Police arrested 27-year-old Kevin Jerome Green, address unknown, on suspicion of burglary. Green was released on his own recognizance, according to court records online, and is scheduled to enter a plea Aug. 19 at the René C. Davidson Courthouse in Oakland.

LAPTOP ROBBERY A robber punched a 24-year-old Berkeley man and stole his laptop at Alchemy Café on July 25 between 11 a.m. and 11:30 a.m., authorities report. The man was working on his computer inside the coffee shop, at 1741 Alcatraz Ave. (near Adeline Street) when a stranger ran inside and grabbed his computer. The stranger ran outside, but the laptop owner chased him and confronted him near King and 63rd streets: “The suspect refused to give the laptop back and punched the man’s face — leading to a struggle for the laptop. During the struggle, the suspect knocked the man to the ground and again punched him. The suspect then ran away,” police said. The robber was described as a black man, 18-25 years old, 6 feet 3 inches tall with a skinny build, wearing a hooded top with sagging pants.

LAPTOP ROBBERY ATTEMPT A short time later, two people tried to steal laptops from customers at Romeo’s Coffee, at 2499 Telegraph Ave. (near Dwight Way). Just before noon July 25, the pair ran into Romeo’s and each grabbed a laptop from a customer. When they tried to run off, however, a customer tackled one of the would-be thieves, police said. The other person got away. When police arrived, they arrested the 15-year-old Richmond boy who had been held by customers. Both laptops were recovered. KTVU obtained security video from the coffee shop robbery attempt and published it last week.

ASSAULT WITH A DEADLY WEAPON Police responded to Berkeley’s Pathways homeless shelter at 1601 Second St. on July 22 for a report of a fight between two people that involved a metal bar, police report. When they arrived at 8:40 a.m., “they learned that two had been involved in an argument when the suspect left briefly to later return with a metal bar. The suspect swung the metal bar at the victim (a 26-year-old man)—striking the man’s back.” Police spoke with witnesses and arrested a 39-year-old woman with no known address. The woman does not appear to have been charged and is no longer in custody, according to Alameda County court records online.

ROBBERY That same day just before 11:30 p.m., a 20-year-old Berkeley man was walking at Euclid Avenue and Virginia Street when someone approached him from behind. The stranger grabbed the pedestrian by his shoulders and pulled off his backpack. After taking the bag, the robber ran to a nearby dark-colored vehicle and drove off. Witnesses described the robber as black, 6’1”-6’2” tall with a thin build, wearing dark pants and a dark hooded top.

SEXUAL ASSAULT ARREST A man was asleep in a tent in downtown Berkeley on July 24 at 5 a.m. when a woman went inside and sexually assaulted him, police report. After investigating, police identified a 48-year-old woman the next day on suspicion of oral copulation and probation violation. She is no longer in custody and charges do not appear to have been filed.

ASSAULT WITH A DEADLY WEAPON On July 25 at 3:30 a.m., police responded to Channing Way and Fourth Street for a disturbance between two neighbors who live in tents in the area. According to police, “The suspect entered her neighbor’s tent to tell her neighbor (a 51-year-old man/address unknown) to turn down the music. When the man zipped up his tent with the suspect outside of it, the suspect cut the man’s hand with a razor.” Officers arrested a 25-year-old woman, address unknown, on suspicion of assault with a deadly weapon and violation of probation. She is no longer in custody and does not appear to have been charged.

AUTO BURGLARY ARREST Police arrested a 31-year-old man early Friday morning after a caller reported an auto burglary in the 2100 block of Addison Street (near Shattuck Avenue). At about 3:10 a.m., the caller told police there were two people burglarizing a vehicle on the block. Police arrived to find one of the alleged burglars near the vehicle. Police arrested Dominick Sherman, address unknown, on suspicion of auto burglary, possession of stolen property and violation of probation. The other person had left the area and was not located. Sherman remains in custody at Santa Rita Jail. He is set for a parole revocation hearing Aug. 12, according to court records online.

CRIME STATS THROUGH SUNDAY In the past four weeks, there have been 40 violent Part 1 crimes* reported in Berkeley: 26 robberies, six sexual assaults and eight aggravated assaults. There have been 226 violent Part 1 crimes reported in 2019. On the property crime side, there have been 254 reported in the past four weeks: 164 thefts, 35 auto thefts, 55 burglaries and no arson reports. For the calendar year, there have been 2,153 Part 1 property crimes reported. Of the burglaries in the past four weeks, 35 were home burglaries and 20 were commercial. Of the theft reports, 24 were grand theft, 83 were petty thefts and 57 were auto burglaries, according to the latest BPD data.

* These numbers are preliminary calls for service and may change as a result of investigations.