Eric Clanton, a former teacher at Diablo Valley College, was arrested by Berkeley police on Wednesday on suspicion of three counts of assault with a deadly weapon identified as a U-lock bike lock, and one of those assaults is alleged to have caused a significant injury.
Police say the violence happened April 15 in Civic Center Park in Berkeley when pro-Trump supporters clashed with self-described anti-fascist, or “antifa,” activists determined to stop a rally where white supremacist views were expected to be expressed.
Soon after April 15, 28-year-old Clanton was “outed” online, on the website 4chan, as someone who used a bike lock to strike a man in the head. The assault was captured in a video clip (below) that drew widespread attention and anger after it was posted on YouTube.
Until Wednesday night, Berkeley investigators had declined to say whether they were looking into Clanton, despite the outcry online calling for his arrest. Wednesday, officers arrested him in Oakland at 12:15 p.m. He is being held at Berkeley Jail with a bail of $200,000, according to Alameda County sheriff’s office records online. Clanton, whose listed occupation is college professor, is scheduled for arraignment Friday. Police said they have identified three victims in the case. All three were struck in the head or neck with a bike lock, police said.
Clanton was a student assistant at San Francisco State University in 2013, according to the SF State paper, Golden Gate Xpress. He worked at the college as a graduate teaching assistant until 2015. Clanton began teaching at Diablo Valley College in Pleasant Hill in 2015, though he was not active this semester. According to Transparent California, Clanton taught philosophy for the Contra Costa Community College District in 2015 and 2016, and was paid as a lecturer last year by California State University.
“His work in political philosophy … centers on mass incarceration and the prison system,” his Diablo Valley faculty page entry read, though it has since been taken down. “He is currently exploring restorative justice from an anti-authoritarian perspective.” According to his brief DVC bio, he taught an intro philosophy course that included instruction in “ethics, critical thinking, and comparative philosophy.” Clanton listed “ethics and politics” as his main research interests.
Berkeley Police Capt. Ed Spiller told Berkeleyside on Wednesday that Clanton was not at home in San Leandro when officers served their search warrant Wednesday morning, so investigators with the BPD homicide detail, the team responsible for the case, had to track him down at a location in Oakland. Clanton was then taken into custody without incident.
Spiller confirmed Wednesday that Clanton had been under investigation for some time when he was arrested. Investigators “obtained information from various sources” before seeking a warrant for the arrest, he said.
Spiller said he did not know the degree of injuries suffered by the three victims, or whether anyone had to be taken to the hospital. He said one attack he watched on video, however, looked “pretty ugly.”
“As a normal person viewing the video, it’s kind of shocking in my opinion,” he said.
Spiller said BPD would likely present the case to the Alameda County district attorney’s office this week for possible charges.
A reference on Clanton’s arrest record to a firearms violation appears only due to a clerical error, according to authorities. It should be listed as a possible sentencing enhancement tied to the infliction of great bodily injury.
Police will continue to review videos and interview witnesses, and Spiller said there may be additional cases from the protests in Berkeley earlier this year.
“We’re taking every case seriously,” Spiller said. “We’re still asking people to come forward that have information.… There’s still work to be done.”
BPD has asked the public to share photographs and videos “of those who may have committed crimes during the event,” and to share information by phone at 510-981-5818.
Update, May 25, 4:04 p.m. BPD released a prepared statement Thursday about the Clanton arrest noting that the homicide team handled the case “Due to the severity of these felonious assaults.” BPD described the assaults as “violent”: “Some of these assaults were captured on video and viewed heavily on social media. In the assaults, Clanton was seen striking people in the head with a U shaped bicycle lock causing significant injuries to the victims.”
[Note: An earlier version of this story identified Clanton as a student assistant, which was his role at SF State in 2013. He later worked there as a graduate teaching assistant until 2015. Clanton began teaching at Diablo Valley College in 2015, though he was not active this semester, according to the San Francisco-based Golden Gate Xpress. This story has been corrected and additional employment information has been added.]