Readers wondered about the arrest of a homeless man earlier this week in downtown Berkeley. Photo: Moby Theobald
Readers wondered about the arrest of a homeless man earlier this week in downtown Berkeley. Photo: Moby Theobald

Several readers asked Berkeleyside to find out why it took seven officers to detain one man in downtown Berkeley earlier this week.

Wondered Stefanie Kalem: “Anybody know what just happened with seven cops and one very agitated man on the corner of Shattuck and Addison?”

The incident drew some attention because it took place in a highly trafficked area at a busy time of day, and involved quite a few officers and police vehicles. Video of the incident appears below.

The scuffle ultimately drew at least 10 officers to Shattuck Avenue and Addison Street on Wednesday, Feb. 11, at about 4:15 p.m. Berkeley Police spokeswoman Officer Jennifer Coats said police were initially called for a report of a man who was “ranting, and appeared extremely agitated.”

Officers tried to speak with the man, Coats said, but he “became agitated and took a fighting posture towards the officers.” Officers tried to detain him and he became “physically combative … and resisted their attempts to take him safely into custody.”

Kevin Kunze, who was at the scene, posted the following video on YouTube, asking “How many Berkeley cops does it take to arrest one homeless person?” He wrote to Berkeleyside on Twitter and wanted to know more.

Coats said the video “does not show the initial contact” between the man and officers, who called for emergency back-up “to overcome his resistance, without causing injury to themselves or him.” The man was later sent to the hospital for evaluation, she said.

According to scanner recordings reviewed by Berkeleyside, the man had a sleeping bag and was reported to be “ranting and defecating near … businesses.” He appeared to Kunze to be homeless.

The video begins with two officers trying to handcuff a man who is down on the sidewalk, holding his hands in front of his body and resisting the efforts of the officers to detain him.

“You trying to mug me?” he asks them. “Got nothing else to do? What’s the special occasion?”

The officers repeatedly order him to give them his hands, and to stop fighting and kicking.

“Stop making a scene,” one officer tells the man.

Many officers responded to detain an uncooperative man in downtown Berkeley on Wednesday. Photo: Moby Theobald
Many officers responded to detain an uncooperative man in downtown Berkeley on Wednesday. Photo: Moby Theobald

It ultimately took at least seven officers to successfully detain the man, as a handful of other officers monitored the situation to keep the scene secure.

Kunze, the person filming, can be overheard saying, “It’s kinda ridiculous at this point,” as the crowd of police officers trying to detain the man grows. “How many cops does it take to get one person arrested? So unnecessary.”

Other bystanders can be heard in the background giving the officers the benefit of the doubt.

“They must have some reason,” a man says.

Adds a woman, “They don’t do this out of the blue … but it’s very sad.”

Friday afternoon, Berkeley Police Capt. Andrew Greenwood said it’s clear to him from the video that this was “an extremely dangerous situation for officers” as they tried to overcome the resistance of “an agitated person ranting and raving” who was “fiercely and continually resisting being controlled.”

He said the officers held the man down to try to gain control of his limbs: “The person’s right arm is curled under his body, and you can see the officers focused on trying to control that hand. They called for emergency cover, and numerous officers arrived on scene.”

An officer also responds to the scene with a ‘wrap’ device to immobilize the man’s legs.

Greenwood said officers did “an excellent job with the tools they have. In a struggle like this, the officers’ actions are exactly what we expect. Arriving officers … calmly begin to assist. They work together as a team to gain full control over the still resisting subject.”

“In any case where our officers have to use force, we want a rapid, robust and decisive response,” Greenwood said. “This can initially be a lot of officers — whatever it takes to safely resolve the situation — but from my perspective, I saw the right amount of officers, working as a team, resolving the matter as our community expects: in the safest manner possible.”

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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...