Duane Nailor (via Facebook)
Duane Nailor. Photo: via Facebook

Update, March 9, 1:15 p.m. Nailor was sentenced Wednesday to 12 years in prison, according to Bay City News. Said his mother in court, “We know he went over the top, but we’d like to see some light at the end of the tunnel.”

Original story, March 4, 9 a.m. A man who led police on a high-speed car chase through Berkeley that reached up to 90 mph, after trying to kill a man by beating him with a metal pipe in a prolonged attack, is scheduled to be sentenced next week after being found guilty of attempted manslaughter, mayhem and other charges.

Duane Nailor, 56, was arrested by Berkeley officers after the chase — on Oct. 23, 2013 — when they found him trying to hide near the site of his totaled SUV by covering himself in sand and other home renovation materials, according to court testimony.

Police said Nailor sped away from the scene of the beating, in front of the downtown Berkeley Bank of America, struck a police cruiser by the Public Safety Building, then sped up Martin Luther King Jr. Way into North Berkeley before crashing into a tree on the Alameda near Hopkins Street. The impact of the crash ripped open the right side of the 2003 Ford Explorer.

In February, a jury convicted Nailor of attempted voluntary manslaughter, mayhem, assault with a deadly weapon and evasion of a peace officer. The conviction came two days after he withdrew his plea of not guilty by reason of insanity. He is scheduled to be sentenced Wednesday.

According to court transcripts from Nailor’s preliminary hearing in 2014, two men described how they had approached Nailor to bum a cigarette the night of the attack after he pulled up to the corner of Center Street and Shattuck Avenue, at the Bank of America building.

One of the men, Deshaun Montgomery — a homeless man who had been staying at the shelter across from Berkeley High and Civic Center Park — said he had seen Nailor around town, and they had exchanged a few words. He was familiar with Nailor and his vehicle, which he’d been driving around Berkeley, packed with stuff. An officer testified it looked like Nailor was living in the SUV; it was jammed with so many items, no one else could fit into it.

A hotel is planned at the of Bank of America site in Berkeley. Photo: Emilie Raguso
Bradford was drinking a beer at this circle by the Bank of America before the attack took place. Photo: Emilie Raguso
Bradford was drinking a beer at this circle by the Bank of America before the attack took place. Photo: Emilie Raguso

Montgomery said Nailor took offense when he asked for a cigarette, and began making fun of him and the other man, teasing them about being feminine, and wearing “panties.”

Montgomery recalled that Nailor went on to say: “‘because you come off as a bitch to me,” then added “a whole bunch of disrespectful words, and I was like getting upset by the minute. So, I was exchanging words right back, and …. I backed off and figured I wasn’t going to get a cigarette.”

Montgomery returned to his friend, Shawn Bradford, who was finishing up a 20-ounce can of beer, according to Montgomery’s testimony. Bradford decided to approach Nailor himself to ask for a smoke, and Nailor continued to respond negatively, so Montgomery tried to throw the empty beer can into Nailor’s half-open window.

Montgomery said Nailor tried to hit him through the window with what he thought was a wooden cane, then got out of the SUV.

“Then everything just went haywire,” Bradford testified. “I was getting whooped on with a pipe, and that’s when I fell unconscious and I end up in the hospital.”

Duane Nailor's profile photo on Myspace
Nailor’s profile photo on Myspace
Nailor’s profile photo on Myspace

Montgomery said Nailor had initially advanced on him, swinging, then turned to Bradford.

“He moved in, and he hit him, and I thought he was playing with him, or at first he hit him in the stomach, and he didn’t get no response,” Montgomery said, according to court transcripts. “And I am like, OK, I am thinking in my mind, like should I help him, or do they know each other, are they just playing?”

Montgomery said Nailor hit Bradford a second time in the stomach, then swung for his head. That blow “sent him directly to the ground.”

Witnesses said they saw Nailor strike Bradford — who was 41 at the time of the attack — up to 50 times over a period of perhaps 15 minutes with a metal pipe about 3 feet long. He reportedly focused his blows on Bradford’s head, but also struck and kicked his stomach and ribs. The prosecutor at the preliminary hearing, William Boselli, said Nailor “pulverized” Bradford: “His brains were exposed while he is lying there bleeding on the ground. Literally his head is cracked open.”

Berkeley Police Detective Jesse Grant testified that Bradford had multiple skull fractures, multiple brain bleeds, and a fractured left orbital socket. He was in a coma at Highland Hospital for a month, then had to go to rehab to re-learn how to walk, Bradford told the court. At the time of his testimony, he still had several scars on the back of his head — which he was able to show the judge because his head was shaved — as well as numbness in parts of his body, trouble walking, frequent headaches and other cognitive challenges.

According to a statement released by the Alameda County district attorney’s office, “The defense claimed that that Defendant Nailor was unconscious at the time of the attack, and that he was acting under a schizophrenic delusion that he was as an ordained officer of the law, which was caused because he stopped taking his medications two weeks prior. Defendant Nailor also claimed that he acted in self-defense.”

Numerous people said they tried to stop the attack. Members of the crowd would shout at Nailor, and drivers in the area were honking. But, when they did, witnesses said Nailor would turn to them, asking: “Who wants to be next?” He would then resume the beating on Bradford, according to testimony.

One driver who happened to stop in the intersection on his way to drop off a friend said Nailor shattered his passenger-side window with the pipe, and struck the back of the car as he sped away. Montgomery said Nailor kept up the beating until officers arrived, then “was able to drive away because police didn’t know what car he was in.”

Witnesses said Nailor appeared to be acting crazy. He was slurring his words, his eyes were open wide, and he was unable to stay still for more than a few seconds, Montgomery said.

“He was out of it. It was, like, a person with a schizophrenia,” said another witness who testified that Nailor tried to run him down as he sped off when officers began to arrive. “It wasn’t normal. I tell you, it wasn’t drugs, but, well, no, it wasn’t normal, not a normal person.”

After a car chase with the Berkeley police in the early hours of Oct. 23, the attempted murder suspect crashed this 2003 Ford Explorer into a tree on the Alameda, north of Hopkins Street. The vehicle’s right side was sheared open by the impact with the tree. Photo: Berkeley Police
The 2003 Ford Explorer crash site on the Alameda, north of Hopkins Street. Photo: BPD
The 2003 Ford Explorer crash site on the Alameda, north of Hopkins Street. Photo: BPD

Nailor accelerated from 35 mph up to 60 mph on Center, westbound, then turned right on MLK without slowing down, testified Berkeley Police Officer Essex Combong, who was following behind him. Nailor’s SUV struck a patrol vehicle at Center and MLK, then continued north, speeding up to 80 mph as he neared Cedar Street. Prosecutors said he got up to 90 mph during the pursuit.

Combong said he lost sight of Nailor because of fog, and slowed down, turning off his lights and sirens. About 30 seconds later, he began to see debris in the road, then saw the Explorer at rest, facing east on MLK, which is a north-south street. It had major front-end damage and significant damage to the passenger side, which was completely sheared off. Inside the SUV, police later found the metal pipe used in the beating, bent in the middle, 3 feet long and fairly rusted, Grant said.

Combong scanned the area and said he saw Nailor less than a minute later about 30 feet away.

“He appeared to be covering himself up with debris or sand and plastic sheeting,” he said, materials related to a home renovation project on Napa Avenue. Officers were then able to take Nailor into custody.

Originally, Nailor was charged with nine felonies: premeditated attempted murder and assault with a deadly weapon in connection with the beating; assault on a peace officer; assault with a deadly weapon in connection with four other men Nailor allegedly hit with a pipe; evading a police officer with willful disregard for safety; and evading an officer against traffic. Several other charges were added after the preliminary hearing.

The trial began Jan. 25. The jury started deliberation in early February, and convicted Nailor on Feb. 8 of attempted voluntary manslaughter, mayhem, assault with a deadly weapon and evasion of a peace officer.

Nailor is scheduled to appear for his sentencing hearing Wednesday, March 9, in Department 8 at 9:30 a.m. at the René C. Davidson Courthouse by Lake Merritt.

Read more crime coverage on Berkeleyside.

Sanity hearing set after near-deadly beating in Berkeley (11.15.13)
Attempted murder suspect set for arraignment (10.25.13)
Man arrested after attempted murder, car crash in Berkeley (10.23.13)

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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...