Update, Feb. 18, 2:55 p.m. UCPD released a statement about the sexual assault Tuesday night. Police said the woman was walking in the 2500 block of Benvenue at about 11:30 p.m. when a man approached her from behind and “used a bear hug to restrain” her, “and then sexually assaulted her.” The woman chased the man through the Unit 2 parking lot. He was last seen running west on Haste. Berkeley Police officers searched the area but could not find him. He was described as a black man in his early 20s with an average build and short dreadlocks, wearing dark-colored pants, an oversized olive green jacket and a hooded sweatshirt.
Original story, Feb. 17, 12:16 p.m. Two women have been sexually assaulted by a stranger near People’s Park in Berkeley since last Thursday, and police are investigating whether the incidents are linked.
The latest assault took place Tuesday at about 11:35 p.m. in the 2500 block of Benvenue Avenue, about a block east of the park, near Dwight Way. Police said it was too early in the investigation to release much information about that case.
Scroll down for safety tips from BPD.
According to scanner traffic reviewed by Berkeleyside, the victim told police a man grabbed her and “threw her down” before assaulting her. There was some indication from what was described that both assaults were of a similar nature, but authorities have not confirmed this information.
“We responded to a similar call last Thursday night, however, it is too soon in tonight’s investigation to say if they appear to be the same suspect,” Berkeley Police Lt. Dan Montgomery said shortly after the report came in.
The earlier incident took place Thursday, Feb. 11, at about 9:10 p.m. in the 2500 block of Haste Street and Telegraph Avenue, just blocks from where Tuesday’s attack took place. A 21-year-old UC Berkeley student was walking when she was grabbed from behind and pushed to the ground, police said, before being sexually assaulted.
The complete description released by UCPD was that the man was in his mid-20s, 5 feet 9 inches tall, with curly hair and a beard.
Berkeley Police spokeswoman Officer Jennifer Coats said the student did not know the man, and that Thursday’s case has been classified as forcible sexual penetration, code 289(a)(1).
Coats said Tuesday detectives were still reviewing that case, which limited the amount of information that could be released.
She said Wednesday morning that investigators are also still looking into Tuesday night’s case, and that no further information was available. (She said after publication that the victim was a woman in her early 20s.)
“We are investigating a sexual assault that occurred last night,” she said. “We don’t know if the cases are connected.”
The vast majority of sexual assaults involve perpetrators who are known to the survivor, which does not appear to be the case in these most recent incidents.
Berkeleyside will update this post if additional information becomes available.
Update, 2:30 p.m. Authorities have also been trying to solve another recent case where a female UC Berkeley student told police she was the victim of sexual battery. That incident took place on Sproul Plaza shortly before 11 a.m. Jan. 28, about three weeks ago. Officers were unable to find the man, who was described as black, in his 30s, with a dark complexion and medium build and a scruffy goatee. He was wearing a green jacket and black pants.
Coats said BPD and UCPD are sharing information about the recent cases, and investigators will continue to review them to determine if they are linked.
Wednesday afternoon, police also released the following safety tips:
- Stay alert and be aware of your surroundings
- Stay away from isolated areas
- Travel on well-lit streets
- Whenever possible, walk in groups
- Do not become distracted on the phone or listening to music
Do you rely on Berkeleyside for local news? Support independent journalism by becoming a Berkeleyside member for $10 a month or even less, or by making a one-time donation.
[Note: The first sentence of this story was updated after publication, to reflect the age of the second person who was assaulted, as soon as the information was provided by BPD.]