Sgt. Mary Kusmiss: "incredible focus" on iPhones

Five cases of robbery — strong arm and armed — have been reported south of the university campus and near downtown since June 19, according to the Berkeley Police Department. According to Sgt. Mary Kusmiss of the BPD, the police are seeing a “predominance” of strong arm and grand theft robberies being committed for iPhones and other types of smartphones. “There has been an incredible focus on iPhones,” Kusmiss said.

In the most serious of the crimes, last Wednesday, at around 11:45 p.m., a 19-year old UC student was the victim of armed robbery at the intersection of Dwight and Etna. He was approached by three males who pushed him to the ground while pointing a gun at him. The suspects took various items including an Apple iTouch and a BlackBerry phone. One suspect punched the victim in the throat while another struck him across the forehead with the gun. The three suspects fled on foot southbound on Etna. The victim sustained minor injuries and was treated at the scene. Berkeley police searched the area but were unable to find the suspects.

The victim described the three suspects as unknown race or Black males in their late teens, 5’8” to 5’9” in height, 140 to 150 lbs., with average builds, all wearing dark hooded sweatshirts with the hoods up and dark jeans.

In the most recent case, on Monday afternoon at 1:57 p.m., a 22-year old woman was using her iPhone on the 2400 block of Haste Street, when she was approached by a man who tried to take her phone. The phone was forcibly grabbed out of her hand, causing a minor injury to the victim’s finger. The suspect fled in a vehicle. A vehicle matching the description was stopped by BPD on 7th Street and Ashby. An arrest was made when the occupant was positively identified as the robbery suspect and the iPhone was found in his vehicle.

The police have not yet released details of the suspect because they are investigating whether he may be connected with other robberies in Berkeley or in other jurisdictions, according to Sgt. Kusmiss.

On Sunday night at 11:50 p.m., a study abroad student was walking on Telegraph near Dwight Way when he was approached by two suspects who demanded his wallet. The suspects grabbed the wallet and fled on foot. Berkeley police searched the area but were unable to locate the suspects, who are described as a Black male about 20 years old, 6’0” in height, a large build, with short black hair, wearing a zip up hooded sweatshirt and blue jeans, and a Black male, 20 years old, 5’11” in height, a medium build, wearing a black pullover sweatshirt and black jeans.

Last Thursday at 5:43 p.m., a pedestrian in front of 2068 Center Street was the victim of a strong-arm robbery. The victim attempted to purchase prescription pills from the suspect and the suspect took the victim’s money and ran. The victim chased and caught up to the suspect, holding him down until the Berkeley police arrived. The suspect arrested is 45-year old Walter Slaughter.

The first crime in the spate occured on Sunday, June 19, at around 2:30 p.m. A 21-year old woman was standing at the intersection of Kittredge and Shattuck when she was approached by a male suspect who grabbed her iPhone. The suspect entered a 1990s green Jeep Cherokee and fled the scene traveling eastbound on Kittredge. The victim was not injured during the encounter. BPD searched the area but was unable to find the suspect or the vehicle.

The victim described the suspect as a Black male, approximately 25 years of age, with a dark complexion, short black hair, 5’6” in height, with a thin build, wearing a dark green and brown short sleeved shirt and black pants.

If you have further information about any of these crimes, contact Berkeley Police Department on (510) 981-5900.

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Lance Knobel (Berkeleyside co-founder) has been a journalist for nearly 40 years. Much of his career was in business journalism. He was editor-in-chief of both Management Today, the leading business magazine...