Image: Google Maps
Image: Google Maps

A driver who crashed into several parked vehicles in North Berkeley, then fled the scene as his car burned, was arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence and hit and run just after 9:30 Saturday morning, authorities said.

Authorities identified the driver as Geoffrey Cronin, 42, of Berkeley. Cronin was arrested last year in connection with a knife assault and police chase in Berkeley in August.

Saturday, March 29, at 8:16 a.m., Berkeley officers responded to Walnut and Cedar streets after a caller reported an injury accident involving the driver and a parked vehicle, said Berkeley Police spokeswoman Officer Jennifer Coats, via email.

When officers arrived, they were told the driver had fled the scene.

According to Deputy Fire Chief Avery Webb of the Berkeley Fire Department, several parked vehicles were damaged in the crash. The responsible vehicle was on fire when first responders arrived.

Firefighters who were dispatched to the crash found flames in that vehicle’s engine compartment. Both airbags had deployed. Firefighters put out the flames, and left the incident to be investigated by police, Webb said via email.

According to residents who live nearby, the block was closed off during the investigation Saturday morning, and the incident drew many onlookers.

Coats said witnesses to the crash gave officers a description of the driver, and “a similar subject was detained nearby.”

Police investigated further, and ultimately arrested Cronin on suspicion of driving under the influence, hit and run, and probation violation, Coats said.

Cronin was arrested last August in Berkeley on suspicion of driving under the influence, driving at unsafe speeds, going the wrong way in traffic while evading police, evading police with a disregard for public safety, and several other violations, including battery.

Berkeleyside reported on that incident last fall. On Wednesday, Aug. 21, 2013, Berkeley Police responded to a domestic disturbance in the 1500 block of Campus Drive at 7:10 p.m.

It was reported that a man had physically assaulted a victim and threatened the victim with a knife. The man, later identified as Cronin, fled before police arrived, according to authorities. When conducting an area check for the suspect, an officer spotted Cronin’s vehicle, and tried to pull him over.

Coats said last year that Cronin failed to yield, and fled “in a willful and wanton disregard for public safety.” Due to the threat to public safety, the officer gave up the pursuit.

Moments later, another officer found Cronin standing outside his vehicle. The officer tried to detain Cronin, but he refused to obey, then assaulted the officer, Coats said. Additional officers responded to help, and Cronin was arrested.

Cronin was in custody at Santa Rita Jail as of Tuesday night, in connection with the March 29 crash, with a bail of $6,305. He was scheduled to have been arraigned Tuesday morning.

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Emilie Raguso (former senior editor, news) joined Berkeleyside in 2012 and covered politics, public safety and development until her departure in 2022. In 2017, Emilie was named Journalist of the Year...