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A man who tried to rob a woman in Berkeley, after they arranged online to meet in a downtown parking garage, pepper-sprayed her Sunday before fleeing the scene, authorities report.

UCPD said the attempted robbery took place at about 1:30 p.m. in the parking garage at 1995 University Ave., between Bonita Avenue and Milvia Street. The building also houses UC Extension.

The woman had just met the man online and they had then arranged to meet in person, according to UCPD.

When they met in the garage, however, the man tried to rob the woman.

“The victim resisted and the suspect sprayed her with pepper spray,” according to a statement from UCPD. “The victim screamed and the suspect fled the scene.”

The man was last seen by witnesses running on Berkeley Way westbound. 

The woman suffered minor injuries during the robbery.

Sgt. Sabrina Reich, UCPD spokeswoman, said she could not clarify the purpose of the meeting so as not to jeopardize the ongoing investigation. The woman’s age and city of residence were not immediately available.

Police searched the area but could not find the man. He was described as black, 35 years old, and 5 foot 8 to 5 foot 9 inches tall with a dark complexion, medium build and a “square goatee.” He was wearing a dark hat with a white bill, mirrored sunglasses, a blue Adidas jacket that matched the hat, and dark pants.

UCPD asks anyone with information to call the department at 510-642-6760.

UCPD provided the following online dating safety tips:

  • Get verifiable details through email, such as a phone number, before any meeting. Use the online dating site’s message system, not a private email.
  • Don’t go into a car alone with a stranger. Remain in public for initial encounters.
  • Do not give out personal information until you feel absolutely safe and comfortable.
  • Tell a friend about the date, including the meeting location and what time it is expected to be done.
  • Never leave your drink or purse unattended.
  • Do not delay in calling law enforcement: UCPD strongly encourages the reporting of criminal or suspicious activity in a timely manner to assist in intervening in potential criminal actively and apprehending suspects.

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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...