Berkeley police respond to a shooting at People’s Park. Photo: Adam Klyce

Police and firefighters have responded to Regent Street and Dwight Way in Berkeley for a report of a gunshot victim at People’s Park, authorities have confirmed.

Berkeley police got multiple 911 calls about gunfire just before 2:45 p.m. Friday. Someone who called police said they could smell smoke from the gun, according to unconfirmed scanner reports. Berkeleyside has asked police for further information.

Police asked firefighters to respond quickly after finding someone with “massive head wounds” in the park, according to radio traffic. Police said they planned to lock down the area around Regent and Dwight and at Telegraph Avenue.

“Stay with me, man,” a Berkeley police officer could be heard saying over the radio at 2:48 p.m.

Callers also reported a group running from the area and a vehicle fleeing on Dwight after the shooting.

The shooting happened on the west side of the park, police reported over the radio.

Berkeley police have confirmed there was a shooting but said UCPD will be the primary handling agency.

The Berkeley Fire Department took the victim to the hospital just before 2:55 p.m., according to scanner reports.

Berkeley has seen multiple reports of gunfire in 2019, but Friday afternoon’s shooting was just the second one where a victim was located.

Update, 3 p.m. A UCPD dispatcher said any information about the shooting would have to go through its department spokesman, who is off duty until Monday. Berkeleyside asked for a callback Friday due to the serious nature of the incident.

Update, 3:20 p.m. The Berkeley Fire Department arrived at People’s Park at 2:50 p.m. in response to the 2:43 p.m. shooting report, said Assistant Berkeley Fire Chief Keith May. A BFD medic transported a male victim with a gunshot wound to the head to the area trauma center, May said.

Update, 3:20 p.m. UCPD sent a Nixle alert at 3:15 p.m. to advise the community of police activity at People’s Park and asked the public to “stay out of the area.” UCPD included no further detail in its alert.

Update, 3:30 p.m. One community member who was at the park after the shooting said he spoke to two teenage boys “who had just purchased marijuana from the victim” and “said he was a fixture there.” They were standing 10-15 feet away “when they heard a gunshot.” They turned to see someone wearing a bike helmet swiveling away to leave.

Police blocked Telegraph Avenue near People’s Park after Friday’s shooting. Photo: Citizen reporter

Update, 3:35 p.m. UCPD has just reported via Nixle that there was a shooting at People’s Park and that the shooter “fled the area.”

Update, 3:45 p.m. Gunfire is generally uncommon in the Southside neighborhood near the UC Berkeley campus, but April has seen an uptick. On April 12, UCPD received reports of 10 gunshots south of campus. About 24 hours later, police arrested two men in connection with eight more gunshots in the same neighborhood. Those men have been charged. Gunfire in the park itself is unusual, however.

Update, 4:20 p.m. A People’s Park regular named Roosevelt Stephens told Berkeleyside he saw the shooter walking through the park holding the gun by his side just before the attack. The shooter’s pants were hanging low and his underwear was showing, said Stephens, whose “park name” is “OG-Wan Kenobi.”

Stephens said the man with the gun appeared to be smiling and talking to himself when he walked up behind the victim, whose nickname is “Cal.” Cal, another People’s Park regular, was sitting at a picnic table on the west side of the park playing with his hair.

The shooter “looked chill,” Stephens said. But the next thing he knew, he told Berkeleyside’s Frances Dinkelspiel, he heard several pops and Cal was on the ground with blood pouring out of a head wound.

The shooter then put the gun in his back pocket and headed to the south side of the park. He walked past a group of people who parted to make way for him: “It was like Moses parting the sea,” Stephens told Berkeleyside.

He said Friday’s shooting does not reflect the community at People’s Park.

“We’re kind and gentle,” he said. “We may be down and out, but we take care of one another.”

He continued: “We hope this doesn’t give a bad impression of the park on its 50th anniversary. This is a bad time for this to happen.”

A music festival to celebrate the park’s 50th anniversary is set to take place Sunday.

UCPD at People’s Park. Photo: Adam Klyce

Update, 4:40 p.m. Marc Fisher, UC Berkeley’s vice chancellor for administration, issued the following message to the campus community regarding a shooting at People’s Park. It appears below in full:

Shortly before 3 p.m. today there was a shooting at People’s Park in Berkeley. The suspect fled in a vehicle and the victim has been transported to the hospital.

UCPD has determined that the victim is not affiliated with campus and does not believe that the alleged perpetrator is affiliated. UCPD investigators believe that there is no immediate danger in the area of People’s Park.

Anyone who has information to assist the investigation should call 510-642-6760.

Update, 4:45 p.m. UCPD Lt. Bill Kasiske, addressing the media at about 4:30 p.m., said acts of violence are common in People’s Park but shootings are not.

Kasiske said Friday’s attack was a targeted shooting but did not say how the victim and shooter knew one another. The shooter fled in a vehicle and is being sought by police, he said.

Friends told Berkeleyside’s Frances Dinkelspiel that the man who was shot is a 43-year-old Berkeley man with three children who has been going to People’s Park, where he often plays dominoes and chess, for 20 years. They called him a “peacemaker” and said they didn’t know “who would do this to him.”

Update, 5:40 p.m. UCPD reports, via Nixle, that People’s Park is “all clear” and that “UCPD is continuing to investigate.”

Police at People’s Park during Friday’s shooting. Photo: Citizen reporter

Update, 8:52 p.m. UCPD has reported, via an email alert at 8:30 p.m., that the man shot at People’s Park has died.

“On April 26, 2019 at about 2:40 PM, UCPD and BPD officers responded to People’s Park to investigate a shooting,” the email reads. “Officers discovered that a man had been shot by a male suspect. The suspect fled the area in a car. The victim was transported to a local hospital and subsequently died. Initial investigation indicates that the shooting was not a random act. It appears that neither the victim nor the suspect is affiliated with UC Berkeley. UCPD is continuing to investigate and encourages anyone with additional information to contact us as soon as possible.”

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

UCPD has released no additional information about the victim or shooter. The man who was killed is Berkeley’s first homicide victim of the year. (Berkeley PD has had no homicides since 2017.)

UCPD also has not responded to Berkeleyside’s original request for information Friday afternoon.

Update, 9:37 p.m. The Alameda County coroner’s office said it could not release the name of the man who died because there is a press hold. A deputy referred all inquiries about the case to UCPD.

Berkeleyside is updating this developing story.

Update: The story was updated after publication to correct the age of Cal, who the Alameda County Coroner’s office identified on April 29 as Calvin Kelley. He was 43. 

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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...