The attempted abduction happened near the intersection of Berryman and Josephine streets near the King campus. Image: Google Maps

On Thursday, May 2, officials say two sixth grade girls, who were waiting to be picked up from King Middle School, were approached by a man who asked them to help him retrieve an item from his car. The case is being treated as a possible attempted abduction.

On Friday, King Principal Janet Levenson sent an email and a recorded message via phone-tree to the King community in which she outlined what happened: “Yesterday at 3:00pm two 6th grade girls were waiting to be picked up at Berryman and Josephine,” she wrote in the email. “A man approached them saying that his keys had fallen into his car and his hand was too big to retrieve them. He pointed to the car which had the door open and was a couple of cars up the street. One girl started to go help him but her friend realized the potential danger and convinced her that they should run into the garden for help. The mom arrived almost immediately but the man was no longer there.He was described as a white male, 5’10”, thin build, brown hair and eyes, and driving a silver 4-door vehicle with no trunk (possibly a small SUV). Please be aware of who is driving around campus and remind your students to wait in front of the school.”

King Middle School
King’s Principal, Janet Levenson, is urging parents and students to use the school’s main pick-up and drop-off area, which is supervised. Photo: King Middle School
King’s Principal, Janet Levenson, is urging parents and students to use the school’s main pick-up and drop-off area, which is supervised. Photo: King Middle School

Neil Smith, Berkeley Unified School District co-superintendent, said Levenson’s alert had been shared with principals across Berkeley Unified schools so “everyone is aware and alert.”

“BPD has always paid close attention to our schools in their regular routine; a commitment that Chief Meehan reiterated to the media following the incident in Connecticut, and we are confident that they are making every effort to keep our students safe while they investigate this incident,” Smith said.

“We take any threat to student safety very seriously, as does our entire community,” he added, saying also that community members should avoid overreacting or challenging “any potentially dangerous persons; there are a lot of eyes on the lookout for anything suspicious, ready to report to authorities so that this individual can be apprehended or discouraged.”

Berkeley High Principal Pasquale Scuderi called the incident “concerning. “The information was shared with us early this morning,” he wrote to the BHS community Friday, “and the description of the vehicle and suspect were immediately broadcast to our school safety officers, campus monitors, and administrators. Our School Resource Officer provided extra patrol today and we ask all parents to remind students to always be safe and aware of their surroundings. Students should report anything suspicious or any suspicious person to a staff member immediately.”

Andrea Lingenfelter, the parent of a King student, said the corner of Berryman and Josephine is a popular drop-off and pick-up spot, as the official spot, westbound on Rose, is “typically clogged.” In her audio message, Principal Levenson stressed that parents should be using the official spot to drop off (especially) and pick up children, even though it is crowded, as it is supervised, unlike the intersection of Josephine and Berryman.

The case is under investigation by the Berkeley Police.

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Tracey Taylor is co-founder of Berkeleyside and co-founder and editorial director of Cityside, the nonprofit parent to Berkeleyside and The Oaklandside. Before launching Berkeleyside, Tracey wrote for...