By Tracey Taylor, Lance Knobel and Emilie Raguso
Scores of Berkeley and Oakland police descended on the Elmwood neighborhood Wednesday evening after a man reportedly rammed an OPD officer who tried to pull him over in downtown Oakland, police told Berkeleyside.
The man surrendered to police just before 8:40 p.m. after seeking refuge on the roof of a College Avenue shop for more than an hour. Officers from both agencies took up a position on the roof, and an Oakland officer who had a rapport with the man was able to talk him into turning himself in. According to law enforcement sources, the man’s pregnant girlfriend, who was in the vehicle with him during the chase, was taken to the hospital for observation.
As of about 9:30 p.m., College remained closed from Webster to Russell streets. Ashby Avenue was closed from Piedmont to Benvenue avenues.
The incident began at 6:50 p.m. in Oakland at 14th and Harrison streets, OPD said, when an officer put out an emergency broadcast about having been rammed by someone in a vehicle. Police said the officer had tried to make a felony vehicle stop, but the driver fled, traveling through various parts of Oakland before ending up in Berkeley at Ashby and College avenues at around 7:30 p.m.
An OPD staffer said the officer was expected to survive and may have broken a wrist, but that the investigation was still preliminary as of shortly before 9 p.m. Police reported just before 9:20 p.m. that a white Dodge truck on scene had been stolen from a dealership. Police also recovered a loaded, stolen firearm during the investigation. The person who spotted that gun, and alerted police, told Berkeleyside it had been stashed in a nearby wine shop.
Wednesday evening, many Berkeleyside readers — who were alarmed when police officers flooded the Elmwood neighborhood, as a helicopter hovered overhead — wondered what was happening. A Berkeley Police spokesman told Berkeleyside shortly before 8 p.m. that a suspect had “fled into our city” but that it was an Oakland Police call, and that any additional information would need to come from that agency.
Berkeleyside’s Lance Knobel, who went out to investigate, saw at least eight police cars in the area and watched as officers set up a perimeter. Many of the officers had guns drawn. Three vehicles, including a white truck, had collided at the intersection of College and Ashby, but the cause of the crash was not immediately available.
A woman named Madison, who said she saw the crash from about 10 feet away, said a man immediately jumped out of the truck and fled down Ashby. Perhaps 10-15 seconds later, a woman got out of the passenger side and started running away.
“The truck and the car hit head-on,” she said, and gasoline was spraying all over the road. “People were scared it was going to ignite so they ran into the stores nearby. Everyone was yelling ‘Get out of the cars!’ so I wasn’t surprised when the driver of the truck got out, but then he just booked it down the street.”
According to another witness, the passenger stashed a gun in a local wine shop before attempting to flee the scene, and was “running north on College and was apprehended by police officers shortly after ditching the weapon.”
(Phil Barringer shared the following raw video from the scene. Although initial reports indicated the man was armed, a gun was recovered by police during the investigation before the man was taken into custody.)
Many readers reported seeing more than a dozen police cruisers speeding up College and Stuart just prior to the collision. One person reported seeing 23 police vehicles pass by on Interstate 580. “Never seen so many cops,” wrote another.
The driver who fled from police took up a position on the roof of the building that houses Ici Ice Cream, and the block of College from Ashby to Russell was closed off to pedestrians and motorists. Police identified the building on the scanner as 2946 College, and said negotiators were on scene to interact with the man.
At around 8 p.m. police asked bystanders to leave the area near the Ashby-Russell block and to stay “at least a block away” from the perimeter. An officer told a journalist on the scene to “stay away from the line of fire.”
According to scanner traffic, police on the ground recovered a gun in connection with the investigation, but said they did not initially know if the man was also armed.
A witness, who gave his name as Andrew, told Knobel he had been parked across the street from Ici when police told the man on the roof to lift his shirt to show if he had “any other weapons.”
The man on the roof asked police if a woman was all right, and police responded that they “couldn’t do anything about that now.”
A Berkeley resident who called BPD dispatch at about 8:10 p.m. was advised to remain inside until further notice due to the police activity, she told Berkeleyside.
Knobel spoke, at around 8:15 p.m., to the father of a man in a black car that had been struck at Ashby and College by the white truck. The man said his son had been taken to Espresso Roma, at the same intersection, and did not have serious injuries but was shaken up.
Councilwoman Lori Droste was on the scene of the incident, too, said Knobel.
Berkeley police issued a Nixle alert at 8:26 p.m. warning of police activity in the area of Ashby and College and alerting pedestrians and motorists to “avoid the area until further notice.”
As per the police scanner, Berkeley officers who were on a College Avenue rooftop were coordinating efforts with OPD and, as of 8:32 p.m., there had been “no change.”
At 8:35 p.m., Anita Coulter posted to Twitter from inside the Dailey Method fitness studio — “We’re on Ashby btwn College & Benvenue. Most of us are waiting for car access. Safe and snug so far!” — after asking Berkeleyside and Councilwoman Droste whether it was safe to go outside. Another woman said she was stuck on a bus during the incident.
Police took the man into custody without incident just before 8:40 p.m. and were beginning to break down their perimeter posts and clear the area, as per scanner reports.
At 8:50 p.m. Knobel, who was observing from outside the perimeter, reported he could see people leaving Ici and Summer Kitchen Bake Shop next door as if they had just been allowed to go outside.
Nineteen-year-old Martina Starc from Oakland was in Ici when the incident began. Just before 9 p.m. when she was allowed to leave the shop, she recounted to the media how the 20 people inside Ici had hidden behind the counter because police said there was an active shooter.
She said Ici gave everyone free ice cream, and that one of the Ici staff “risked her life” by going in front of the counter to give a little girl who was crying ice cream.
As of 9:07 p.m. College and Ashby remained cordoned off, according to Berkeleyside’s Knobel, and police tape surrounded the whole intersection.
Update, 12:15 a.m. The Oakland Police Department released a preliminary statement about Wednesday’s incident. It appears below in full.
On March 15, 2017, at approximately 6:50 p.m., an Oakland police unit consisting of two officers was conducting an investigative vehicle stop when they were intentionally struck by the vehicle they stopped. This incident occurred in the area of 14th Street and Harrison Street. The suspect vehicle was occupied by a driver and one passenger, both adults. From the collision, one officer suffered a broken wrist and was transported to a local hospital for medical treatment.
After the police vehicle was struck, the suspect vehicle proceeded to flee the scene, which then prompted a vehicle pursuit by Oakland police units. The suspect vehicle was also known to contain a firearm.
During the pursuit, the suspect vehicle led officers outside of Oakland city limits and from there, Oakland police air support and officers from other agencies, including the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office, San Leandro Police Department, and Berkeley Police Department became involved.
The vehicle pursuit ended due to the suspect vehicle colliding with two, uninvolved civilian vehicles in Berkeley, in the area of College Avenue and Ashby Avenue. The two occupants of the suspect vehicle fled on foot after the collision. One suspect was quickly detained and arrested, along with a recovery of a stolen and loaded firearm.
Police units set a perimeter to narrow in on the location of the other suspect, who was soon after detained and arrested in the 2900 block of College Avenue.
The two suspects were transported to a local hospital for medical evaluation. No additional injuries have been reported at this time.
This is still an active investigation and anyone with information is encourage to contact the Oakland Police Department Felony Assault Unit at (510) 238-3426.
This story was updated throughout the evening due to the developing nature of events.