Police investigated a fatal shooting at University Avenue and Chestnut Street on Friday, March 20, 2020. Photo: Citizen reporter

Eric Arthur* and his wife had just come inside after putting away their recycling bins on Chestnut Street in Berkeley on Friday afternoon when the sound of a massive crash drew them to their balcony.

The first thing they saw was a parked SUV that had been struck by another SUV. As they stood there, a third vehicle peeled out and sped away.

“Oh god, a hit-and-run,” Arthur thought. He ran outside to see if he could help. Other neighbors were already outside when he got there, but no one had approached the collision. Arthur told Berkeleyside he has some basic medical training, so he decided to see what he could do.

The windows of the crashed vehicle were rolled down and Arthur could see a figure slumped over in the driver’s seat: “I kinda shook him. I tried to talk to him. He was gone.”

Arthur could not see where the man had been shot, but there were obvious signs of trauma. As he turned away from the driver, a young woman, perhaps 20, who had gotten out of the crashed SUV identified herself as the man’s younger sister. She was in shock, and was covered in her brother’s blood from head to toe.

She and Arthur sat down together on the sidewalk as he tried to calm her down. Initially, she was on the phone with police. She got off to call her mother to explain what had happened when it was clear other neighbors were also reporting the situation.

It wasn’t long before police arrived, Arthur said, and split everyone up to take individual statements from them. First responders were unable to revive the driver, who was unresponsive. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

The woman, who was put together and articulate despite what she had just been through, told Arthur that she and her brother had turned onto Chestnut from University right before the attack.

As of publication time, there was nothing to indicate the shooter knew the man who was killed. Police have not released his age or city of residence.

“A mother lost her child yesterday, a sister lost her brother and the sad reality of gun violence shook this thriving neighborhood,” Arthur told Berkeleyside. “Let’s hope the murderer who drove away is brought to justice.”

Neighbors later discussed what they had seen. One described seeing a man running in the street away from the victim’s car. He jumped into the vehicle that fled up Chestnut before, by at least one account, turning left onto Hearst Avenue. Neighbors found at least one bullet casing in the street after the shooting.

“None of us heard gunshots,” Arthur told Berkeleyside. “We know what gunshots sound like and we just didn’t hear it or it blended in with the crash somehow.”

Arthur said he hadn’t seen the shooting but, from what he could put together, the second vehicle may have cut off the SUV and stopped to let out the shooter. After the attack, the fatally wounded driver likely swerved across the street, crashing into the vehicle that was parked.

Berkeley police released no updates Saturday but said the investigation is ongoing and that detectives are actively working on the case.

* This is a pseudonym. Berkeleyside is not sharing the man’s real name due to safety concerns related to the nature of this investigation.

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...