Knights Inn, Berkeley. Image: Google Maps

The man taken from a Berkeley motel room over the weekend “was kidnapped after a marijuana transaction went awry,” police said this week in court papers related to the case.

Five men from South Carolina have been charged with kidnapping for ransom, robbery and possession of an AR-15 assault rifle, according to court papers. The men are also facing special allegations related to causing great bodily injury and possession or use of the rifle and, in the case of one defendant, that it’s a “gang case.”

According to court papers, a 21-year-old man went to the Knights Inn at 1512 University Ave. on Saturday at 6:30 p.m. He had agreed to meet a man named “Chris” to sell him a pound of marijuana for $1,700, police said in court documents.

The victim — whose city of residence has not been released — met “Chris” at about 7:15 p.m. Police said “Chris” was actually a man named Racal Jamikaco Thompson, who is a 24-year-old entrepreneur from Greenville, South Carolina. Thompson took the victim into a motel room where four other men were waiting, according to BPD.

One of those men, later identified as Antravious Marquis Evans, 19, of Fountain Inn, South Carolina, pointed the rifle at the victim, police wrote. Members of the group pushed the victim onto the bed and tied his hands together, using rope and tape. He was punched repeatedly, “even after falling and getting back up. Photos taken later after the Victim was rescued showed his left eye area injured along with swelling to his face,” police said in court papers.

According to police, the men put “a blanket-like cloth” over the victim’s head and forced him outside to a rental car, a 2009 Toyota Highlander. Police later identified the others in the group as Rodquavious Mikeon Whitehurst, 20, of Greenville, South Carolina; Jamikaco Tyrone Thompson, 27, of Greenville, South Carolina; and Vacenta Rakey Rice, 27, of Fountain Inn, South Carolina.

Police said security video from the motel showed the five defendants taking the victim to the getaway car. They said the car could be seen clearly, though officers were not able to make out the license plates.

The men later got in touch with a friend of the victim and told that person to bring nine more pounds of marijuana and $30,000 in exchange for the victim’s life.

Police used a phone number from one of the suspects to track the group to Patterson, California, in the San Joaquin Valley. There, the Stanislaus County sheriff’s office found the group and took the men into custody at about 12:15 a.m. Sunday.

Authorities said the victim had injuries to his face when police freed him. Officers located an AR-15 rifle in the trunk, in the well where the spare tire is kept, they wrote. Police also recovered a loaded magazine for the rifle.

The victim told police he had been bound at the arms and punched repeatedly. He “was threatened that he would be killed if his friend did not come up with the marijuana and ransom.”

According to police, Racal Thompson admitted to having met the victim for the marijuana buy. He said the AR-15 was his, and that he brought it to the motel “for safety.” He also told police his friends  “changed their minds … and decided to kidnap the Victim when the Victim didn’t bring the right amount of marijuana.”

Evans told police he held the rifle during part of the night, and punched the victim twice, as well as walking him to the getaway car.

Jamikaco Thompson “admitted to taping the Victim’s mouth in the car, and threatened the Victim that he was going to ‘Taze’ and hurt the Victim,” according to police.

Whitehurst told police the group had become upset when the victim was “short on the amount” of marijuana. He “told detectives that he threatened the Victim saying he would drown him in the ocean when he found out [the] Victim couldn’t swim.” Whitehurst told police “he didn’t intend to really carry out that threat,” according to court documents.

Meanwhile, Rice told police “the real reason” for the meeting had always been “to steal the Victim’s marijuana.” He said he had punched the victim, and also threatened to drown or shoot him if the group didn’t get what it wanted, police wrote. But he also told detectives that “those threats were just to scare the Victim.”

All five defendants remain in custody at Santa Rita Jail and are scheduled to enter pleas in the case Friday.

The Berkeley Police Department has declined to release booking photos in the case, although someone did release the photographs to KTVU reporter Henry Lee. Lee said he could not reveal who had given him the photographs. Booking photographs are generally considered public information and are often released by many law enforcement agencies. But those agencies also have discretion about what to put out to the public. Agencies can elect to withhold photographs and other information so as not to jeopardize an investigation.

The Berkeley Police Department often says this is the reason it does not release most booking photographs.

Officers in Patterson released a photograph of the AR-15 they said they seized during the arrest early Sunday. And they included the following note with the photograph in a Facebook post titled, Fair warning to bad guys.”

“We keep telling these guys, if you come to Patterson and commit crime we will find you and take you to jail. Last night we got a call from City of Berkeley Police Department who let us know several kidnapping suspects may be in town holding their victim hostage. Thanks to great collaboration with them we were able to locate the 5 suspects who had kidnapped the victim earlier in the day and were trying to ransom him off. They were all arrested near the Kit Fox RV Park and the hostage was rescued. Also they had this little thing on them. All the suspects were provided room and board until Berkeley came and picked them up. The victim was a little worse for wear but will recover from his injuries.”

The message concluded: “Do not come to Patterson and commit crime please. We have warned you.”

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...