Various parts of I-80 were closed throughout Wednesday morning, causing traffic to be diverted onto Berkeley streets. Photo: citizen reporter

Update, 7:20 p.m. Authorities report that westbound I-80 is now open.

Original story, 2:08 p.m. West Berkeley streets were clogged Wednesday morning due to freeway traffic diverted into the city by two separate incidents on Interstate 80, according to authorities in Berkeley: a fatal police standoff in Emeryville and an early-morning big rig crash.

The heavier freeway traffic in Berkeley led to several collisions involving pedestrians on city streets, according to a Berkeley Fire Department alert just before 2 p.m. urging residents to “be careful.”

The standoff in the morning involved a Fairfield homicide suspect, who fled onto I-80 during a chase by Richmond police, according to a Nixle alert from the Emeryville, Fairfield and Richmond police departments. The Berkeley Police Department was not involved in the shooting or the big rig crash.

Around 9 a.m. the California Highway Patrol placed a spike-strip across the freeway lanes near University Avenue in Berkeley, said the CHP at a brief press conference. (Berkeleyside was not in attendance.) When the driver hit the strip, his SUV plowed into the center median and one of the vehicle’s front tires came off. The SUV came to a stop near the Powell Street exit on I-80, and the driver engaged in a standoff with the police, authorities said.

“Officers negotiated with the suspect for an extended period of time until officers received gun fire from the suspect,” the Fairfield alert said. “Officers on scene returned fire and the suspect was struck during the exchange.” The man was taken to a hospital, where he died.

The Emeryville standoff. Photo: Dr_Speed
Traffic in Berkeley as of 3:20 p.m. Image:

As of about 3 p.m., Emeryville police advised that westbound I-80 remained closed at Powell Street due to the earlier police activity. Both of the suggested alternate routes involved Berkeley: “Expect heavy delays on surface streets in Emeryville throughout the day and evening. Consider using alternate routes including Ashby Ave (Highway 13) or San Pablo Ave (State Route 123).”

According to the CHP, lanes in both directions of the freeway were closed during the incident, but the eastbound lanes had reopened by noon. On Twitter, Alan Dyck posted a video of a surreal scene near Powell, where vehicles were making U-turns in the middle of the freeway and exiting the onramp.

Berkeley police sent out a Nixle alert warning motorists of heavy traffic in Berkeley at 11 a.m.

“Due to current conditions on I-80, some freeway traffic has been diverted to city of Berkeley streets. Expect some delays traveling through West Berkeley,” the alert said.

“There was the first incident, which caused traffic, and the second one made it worse,” said Officer Byron White, a BPD spokesman, Wednesday afternoon.

Much earlier in the day, KTVU had reported a traffic alert related to an overturned big rig truck on eastbound I-80 just before University Avenue: “Two right lanes blocked. Slow traffic both.”

This story was updated after publication with information from the Berkeley Fire and the Emeryville Police departments.

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Natalie Orenstein reports on housing and homelessness for The Oaklandside. Natalie was a Berkeleyside staff reporter from early 2017 to May 2020. She had previously contributed to the site since 2012,...