Police: Man found with power saw was fatally crushed by vehicle in Berkeley

Police said evidence suggested “there was a recent attempt at removing the catalytic converter” of a vehicle that crushed a man Monday. Photo: BPD

A man was killed in West Berkeley on Monday night when a vehicle collapsed on him and crushed him to death, authorities report.

Police said they found the man’s body near a power saw and that “there was evidence to suggest there was a recent attempt” to remove the vehicle’s catalytic converter.

A reader asked Berkeleyside to find out what had happened when he saw that police had blocked off Folger Avenue at Seventh Street at about 9:40 p.m. Monday.

Officers were “blocking anyone from trying to head up (east) on Folger toward San Pablo Ave. I couldn’t tell how far up Folger the other end of the street was closed but I could see that it was,” he said, “with more police at that end with their red lights on.”


BPD responded Monday just after 8:10 p.m. to Folger and Seventh for someone who was stuck under a vehicle, said Officer Byron White, Berkeley police spokesman, in response to a Berkeleyside inquiry.

“When officers arrived, it appeared that the hand-cranked jack the person used to lift the vehicle collapsed — dropping the vehicle to the ground and crushing the person underneath the vehicle,” White said.

Berkeley firefighters were able to lift the vehicle to free the man’s body, but they were unable to revive him, he said.

Police also found a battery-powered reciprocating saw beneath the rear of the vehicle, White said, as well as damage to its catalytic converter.

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The car part — which has been a common target of thieves in Berkeley — was fully severed in one place and partially cut in another, he said. The vehicle did not belong to the man who was killed.

White said there were three other recent catalytic converter thefts in Berkeley, including two Monday night, but there were no suspect descriptions in those cases.

The Alameda County coroner’s bureau identified the man who was killed as 42-year-old Omar Zuniga. He had no permanent address listed as of Thursday night.

Zuniga had been pinned behind the tire of the vehicle that crushed him, authorities said.

Emilie Raguso is senior reporter at Berkeleyside. Email: emilie@berkeleyside.com. Phone: 510-459-8325.