Berkeley police have arrested three juveniles who reportedly used a gun in a robbery near Washington Elementary School on Tuesday evening, according to authorities.
Berkeley Police spokeswoman officer Jennifer Coats said police received a call at about 5:40 p.m. on Feb. 26 reporting a person with a gun in the 1800 block of University Avenue, between Grant Street and Martin Luther King. (Washington school is located at 2300 Martin Luther King Jr. Way, opposite the Berkeley High School campus.) Coats said police received additional information that three people had been involved in a robbery, and that they had stolen a cell phone from a male victim then fled.
“A description was broadcast and officers immediately responded to the area to attempt to locate the described subjects,” she said, via email.
Coats said officers found three people matching the description near Bancroft Way and McKinley Avenue. All three, a boy and two girls, were arrested on suspicion of robbery, and a gun was recovered. (The ages of the suspects were not provided.)
Acting Washington Elementary School Principal Hazelle Fortich sent an email to parents Wednesday morning saying that she has requested extra police patrols during morning drop-off, from 8-8:30 a.m., through next week. She also asked parents to do their part to keep the school gate closed when entering and exiting the property, and said she planned to meet with the after-school programs to review safety procedures for emergencies.
Fortich also wrote that the youth who were arrested “NEVER entered the school grounds.”
But a father whose child goes to the school told Berkeleyside that, while that technically may have been true, “it was close enough so as to make the distinction academic.” He said the arrest took place four to five feet away from him and his child, who were leaving the school as police drew their weapons.
“There could very easily have been a shootout right in front of the school, during a moment when kids were leaving,” he said, via email. He asked the school principal, in an email he shared with Berkeleyside, if there might have been an alternative approach. “I’m glad that the police caught them — I’d rather not have armed teens running around Berkeley — and I thank them for risking their lives to do so, but I’m also questioning if it was necessary to intercept these kids directly in front of the entrance to the school.”
Coats said police very much “understand the concerns of the community in regards to safety surrounding our schools.” And, while there was no indication that the suspects were trying to enter school property, she said, “Every situation is unique and constantly evolving. In responding to incidents, officers have to make decisions based on the circumstances that are presented to them. Thankfully these suspects were quickly taken into custody.”
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