Berkeley crime roundup: 8 armed robberies, 3 arsons, 3 shootings, more

After a mostly quiet year, violent felony investigations ticked up in Berkeley in August, resulting in a number of arrests and charges.

Police say they recovered this unregistered, loaded handgun while arresting two people in connection with a burglary at Cedar Market. Photo: BPD

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. In normal circumstances, there are 200-300 Part 1 crimes in Berkeley every month. Most Part 1 crimes, which are the categories tracked by the FBI, are serious felonies. Arrestees are innocent until proven guilty.

PAIR CHARGED WITH ILLEGAL GUN POSSESSION, MORE A man and woman are facing a raft of felony charges after Berkeley police detectives linked them to a burglary at Cedar Market, authorities report. The burglary took place shortly before 5 a.m. Aug. 9 at the market, which is located at 1601 California St. (at Cedar Street). Police reviewed surveillance footage of the incident, where two people took cash and other items from the shop. As a result, police said, detectives were able to identify the suspects and their getaway vehicle, which was listed as stolen. Police identified the individuals as Jacy Meier, 40, and Jazzmine Barboza, 32, but found no permanent address for either one.

Two days after the Cedar Market burglary, Berkeley officers found the pair in Oakland and arrested them: “When officers searched the vehicle, officers found a loaded handgun with a high capacity magazine as well as burglary tools and several pieces of stolen items and information,” BPD said. Detectives linked some of the stolen property to a commercial burglary in Oakland at a Shell gas station in early August.

On Aug. 13, the Alameda County district attorney’s office charged Meier, a painter, with seven felonies, including two counts of commercial burglary, receiving stolen property (in connection with the vehicle), carrying a loaded, unregistered firearm, possession of a firearm and ammunition by a felon and ID theft, according to court records online. He has convictions for vehicle theft, possession for sale of a controlled substance and possession of a firearm by a felon. He has a combined bail (for multiple cases) of $370,000, according to court records online.


Barboza, who is self-employed, was charged with committing an offense while on bail, two counts of commercial burglary, possession of the gun and ID theft, according to court records online. She has a combined bail (for multiple cases) of $665,000, according to her arrest record.

Both have entered not-guilty pleas. They are scheduled for their preliminary hearing, when a judge decides whether the case will proceed to trial, Sept. 15.

Arson reports

There have been at least 26 incidents of arson in Berkeley in the past six months, according to CrimeMapping, an online repository of local police data. The Berkeley Fire Department said there have been approximately 10 rubbish fires in the city in 2020.

Burned trash can at Netivot Shalom. Photo: Berkeley Police

ARSON OUTSIDE JEWISH TEMPLE Police arrested a woman they said set fire to a plastic trash bin behind Congregation Netivot Shalom, at 1316 University Ave. between Bonar and Acton streets. Police responded to the synagogue Aug. 6 at about 8:50 p.m. and were told someone had set the trash bin on fire before running away. Bystanders put out the fire and called BFD. Firefighters made sure the fire was out, then told police about the arson. Police spoke to witnesses and reviewed video surveillance, then tracked down suspect 39-year-old Shameka Adams (no address provided) the next day in Ohlone Park. Adams, who was convicted in 2019 of assault with force likely to produce great bodily injury, was charged Aug. 11 with felony arson, according to court records online. She entered a not-guilty plea Aug. 12 and remains in custody at Santa Rita Jail with a bail of $55,000. Adams is scheduled for her preliminary hearing Sept. 10 at the East County Hall of Justice in Dublin.

CHURCH FIRE AT THE WAY CHRISTIAN CENTER Police are also investigating an arson report just across the street from the synagogue that took place a week earlier at The Way Christian Center at 1305 University. Police and firefighters responded to the church just before 12:45 a.m. for the arson report. Church leaders and community members associated with the Black congregation described the incident as a hate crime. (BPD has said there is insufficient evidence to make that determination.) Authorities have released surveillance footage from around the time of the fire — which appears to show a white man in a hat walking on University Avenue — and have asked the community to call BPD’s Property Crimes Unit at 510-981-5737 with any relevant information.


TENT FIRE Someone set a tent on fire July 26 at 9:25 p.m. while a person was sleeping inside, authorities report. That person was not injured, authorities said. Firefighters discovered the tent on fire in the 2600 block of Shattuck Avenue (near Parker Street) and quickly put it out. They “determined that the fire had been intentionally set outside of the tent by an unknown suspect,” police said.

Gunfire

Berkeley has had at least 20 confirmed incidents of gunfire in 2020. Two were fatal and people were wounded (but expected to recover) in four others.

BULLET THROUGH APARTMENT DOOR A Berkeley couple was charged in connection with a shooting that sent a bullet through a neighbor’s door, striking a toy but injuring no one. The shooting took place July 25 at 1 p.m. in the 2200 block of Durant Avenue near Fulton Street. According to police, the couple had previously threatened other residents in the apartment complex. Detectives reportedly found the handgun involved in the shooting during a search. The couple — Curtis and Michelle Hamilton — remain in custody at Santa Rita Jail and were charged July 29 by the Alameda County DA’s office.

According to court records online, Curtis Hamilton was charged with firing the gun, as well as five felonies from April, including assault with a semiautomatic firearm, carrying a concealed firearm, burglary while someone is home and criminal threats.

Michelle Hamilton was charged with criminal threats in connection with an incident July 28, as well as several felonies from April, including assault with a semiautomatic firearm, criminal threats and burglary while someone is home. They entered not-guilty pleas in early August, according to court records online.


Curtis is being held with a bail of $665,000 and Michelle with a bail of $300,000, according to records online. She is scheduled for a pretrial hearing — a recurrent procedural hearing where plea negotiations can take place — Aug. 26 at the René C. Davidson Courthouse in Oakland, according to court records online. He is scheduled for his preliminary hearing Sept. 2 at East County.

MAN LEFT WITH HEAD WOUND AFTER NORTH BERKELEY SHOOTING Police responded to Solano and Fresno avenues shortly before 4 a.m. Aug. 1 for a man in his 20s who had been shot in the head. The man was taken to the hospital with serious injures but was expected to survive. Berkeleyside has asked police for updates this week but there have been none. BPD asks anyone with information about this shooting to call the Homicide Unit at 510-981-5741.

SHOOTING WITH PROPERTY DAMAGE On Aug. 12 just before 4:20 p.m., officers responded to King and 62nd streets for reports of gunfire. Police found no victims, but witnesses told them about an SUV that left the area with a bullet hole in the rear window. There have been about 20 confirmed incidents of gunfire in Berkeley this year, BPD said this week.

Armed robberies

There have been at least 134 robberies in Berkeley in the past six months, according to CrimeMapping.com. The site does not indicate how many of the incidents were armed but, according to BPD from 2018 (the most recent year available), robberies in the city involved guns about 30% of the time, and some other weapon or a simulated weapon about 15% of the time. 

TV NEWSMAN ROBBED A cameraman for a local TV station was robbed at gunpoint Aug. 10 when he was putting equipment into his van just after 5 p.m. outside Congregation Netivot Shalom, 1316 University Ave. The synagogue had an incident of arson outside several days prior. The robber, who was described as a Black man in his 40s, 5 feet 11 inches tall with a thin build, was seen running east on University after the incident.

THREE ARMED ROBBERIES IN QUICK SUCCESSION Police responded to three robberies that took place at gunpoint in less than an hour Aug. 6. In one of them, a man punched a woman repeatedly until she let go of her phone. Police have not said whether the incidents are connected, but the cases remain under investigation.

Just before 8:50 p.m., a woman in her 40s had parked in the 1400 block of Milvia Street (near Rose Street) when two men with a gun took her purse then ran to a getaway vehicle. One of the men was described as Black, in his 20s, about 5 feet 10 inches tall with a thin build, wearing a dark hooded top and dark pants. The other man, who wore similar clothing, was also described as Black, about 5 feet 8 and had a thin build.


Minutes later, a woman in her 20s had just parked in the 1700 block of Grant Street (near Virginia Street) — a few blocks from the Milvia location — when two men with a gun tried to take her phone: “When the woman hesitated, the suspects punched her until she could no longer hold onto her cellphone,” BPD said. The men ran north on Grant Street after the robbery. One of them was described as a Black man in his 20s, about 5 feet 11 with a thin build, wearing dark clothing. No other descriptions were provided.

At 9:30 p.m., a man with a gun robbed a Walgreens cashier, at 2995 San Pablo Ave. (at Ashby Avenue), of money from the register. The robber was described as a Black man, 20-25 years old, 5’5″ to 5’8″ inches tall with a slim build, wearing a gray hooded sweatshirt and blue jeans.

MAN CHARGED WITH ROBBERY OUTSIDE DISPENSARY Jacobi Perkins, 31, of Oakland has been charged with three counts of felony robbery after an armed robbery, in broad daylight at knifepoint, outside a South Berkeley marijuana dispensary, authorities report. On Aug. 2, a man in his 40s was standing in front of Farmacy, at 3243 Sacramento St. (at Alcatraz Avenue) when a stranger with a knife “placed the knife to the man’s ribs and demanded his property,” BPD said. The armed man then drove off in a silver SUV. Detectives identified the vehicle from the robbery, which led Oakland police to arrest Perkins the next day after he “committed several other crimes,” BPD said. The silver SUV had previously been reported as having been “carjacked” in San Francisco, authorities said. Perkins remains in custody at Santa Rita Jail with a bail of $300,000. He was charged with three counts of felony robbery, two of which included the use of a weapon, according to records online. Perkins was arrested in Tracy, according to his arrest record. He is scheduled for a preliminary hearing Sept. 28 at East County, according to records online.

MASKED MAN ROBS ELMWOOD 7-ELEVEN A man with a handgun wearing a black bandana over his face robbed a 7-Eleven cashier at 2887 College Ave. (at Russell Street) at 5:50 a.m. Aug. 1, police said. The man, who wore black clothing, was described as Black, 30-40 years old and 6 feet tall, police said. The robber drove off in a red or burgundy minivan occupied by a second person who was not described.

TRIO WITH GUN THREATENS MAN BEFORE ROBBERY Three men wearing masks and black clothing forced a man in his 20s to walk “to an inconspicuous area” where they robbed him with a gun just before 11 p.m. Aug. 1, police said. The man had been standing by his vehicle in the 1800 block of 10th Street (near Delaware Street) when the group approached him, forced him to walk across the street, then threatened him with a gun, police said. The assailants took cash from the man’s pockets then ran south on 10th Street.

MAN AT BUS STOP ROBBED AT KNIFEPOINT A robber with a knife demanded the wallet of a man in his 60s who was waiting at a bus stop at San Pablo Avenue and Parker Street on July 31, police said. The robber walked up to the man from behind at 10:45 p.m., took the wallet and fled south on San Pablo. He was described as a Black man, 50-55 years old, about 5 feet 7 inches tall, wearing a blue jacket and jeans.

Several strongarm robberies, too

Police say they have linked this stolen Dodge Challenger to at least two Berkeley robberies. Photo: BPD

THREE TEENS ARRESTED IN ROBBERIES ON FRONT PORCH AND FROM WOMAN WALKING Police arrested three teenagers Aug. 6 in connection with at least two robberies after they tried to flee from officers but ended up with a flat tire, authorities report. Charges have been filed against two of the young men, but no information was available about the third person who was arrested — a 17-year-old from San Pablo — because he is a minor.

In one of the incidents, a woman in her 20s was using her cellphone on her own front porch in the 1000 block of Channing Way (near Ninth Street) just before 6 p.m. when a stranger ran up and grabbed the phone from her hands. He fled to a getaway car. In the other, a woman in her 40s was walking on Alcatraz Avenue (near Idaho Street) when people approached her quickly from behind; two of them grabbed her phone. She was able to snatch it back and snap a photo of the getaway vehicle as the group fled, police said.

On Aug. 6, BPD got reports about five robberies between about 6 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. (Three, which involved a gun, are described in the section above.) Some of the incidents involved a dark-colored Dodge Challenger with a covered-up license plate and two or three robberies, police said.

At about 9:40 p.m. — 10 minutes after the Walgreens robbery on San Pablo Avenue described in the section above — officers spotted the Dodge near San Pablo and 67th Street and tried to stop it, police said, but the driver sped off and turned onto Ashby Avenue. Police tried to pursue the car but couldn’t keep up with the “high-performance vehicle,” BPD said. They lost track of it near Martin Luther King Jr. Way. Another officer spotted the Challenger minutes later heading west on Alcatraz Avenue near King Street. Police pursued it but again couldn’t keep up.

Police next saw the vehicle on Shattuck Avenue downtown heading north, BPD said. Officers saw the driver turn left onto Durant Avenue where it stopped due to a flat tire. All three people in the Dodge then surrendered without incident, police said.

Police identified them as Esuke Tokeson of Richmond and Demetri Cartwright of San Pablo, both 19, and the 17-year-old from San Pablo whose name was not released because he is a minor.

All three were arrested on suspicion of several counts of robbery, possession of stolen property, conspiracy and evading a police officer with willful disregard, BPD said.

According to court records online, Tokeson was charged with felony evasion and two counts of robbery.

He remains in custody at Santa Rita Jail with a bail of $175,000. His preliminary hearing is set for Sept. 9 at East County.

Cartwright was charged with two counts of robbery and is no longer in custody. According to records online, his bail was set at $200,000 and he is scheduled for a bail hearing Aug. 25 at East County.

BPD spokesman Officer Byron White said Tuesday that police continue to investigate whether the three armed robberies that took place Aug. 6 are connected to these incidents.

ATM ROBBERY ATTEMPT On July 27 at 3 p.m., a woman in her 30s was using the ATM at Wells Fargo, 2144 Shattuck Ave., when a man asked her for money. She refused, police said, and the man cursed at her and tried to punch her in the face. She was able to evade the blow, then fled the area. The man was described as Black, in his 20s, 6 feet to 6 feet 1 inches tall with a thin build. He wore a blue face mask, jeans, a black jacket and had a red backpack.

Other public safety updates

THREE ARRESTED IN CATALYTIC CONVERTER THEFT Berkeley police arrested three men on suspicion of catalytic converter theft after an alert resident saw the men double-parked by a Toyota Prius near LeConte and LeRoy avenues in the middle of the night, BPD reports. The local resident called police after spotting the men Aug. 12 just before 3:20 a.m. According to BPD, “the resident could see light coming from underneath the Prius and could hear the sound of power tools — followed by the sound of metal being dragged on the ground.” An officer who responded to the area saw the men driving away on LeConte with its headlights off and stopped them, BPD said. In the vehicle, police said they “discovered a catalytic converter in the rear passenger’s lap and also saw that there was a floor jack and saw on the floorboard of where the front passenger was seated. Searching the vehicle further, officers discovered other burglary tools, 2 ½ grams of methamphetamines and other stolen items.” All three men — a 30-year-old and a 31-year-old from Stockton along with a 31-year-old from Vacaville — were arrested on suspicion of grand theft, possession of burglary tools, possession of stolen property and possession of controlled substances. The men are set to appear in court in the future. They are no longer in custody. Berkeleyside is not publishing their names because charges have not been filed.

RECENT CRIME STATS In the past three weeks, there have been 32 violent Part 1 crimes* reported in Berkeley: 24 robberies, three rapes and five aggravated assaults. There have been 258 violent Part 1 crimes reported in 2020. On the property crime side, there have been 174 reported in the past three weeks: 102 thefts, 46 auto thefts, 24 burglaries and two arson reports. For the calendar year, there have been 2,330 Part 1 property crimes reported. Of the burglaries in the past three weeks, 18 were home burglaries and six were commercial. Of the theft reports, 23 were grand thefts, 71 were petty thefts and eight were auto burglaries, according to BPD data.

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

Emilie Raguso is Berkeleyside’s senior editor of news. Email: emilie@berkeleyside.com. Twitter: emraguso.