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

Last week’s fatal shooting in Berkeley began as a road rage incident on University Avenue, according to court papers released Friday shortly after murder charges were filed in the case in Alameda County Superior Court.

Police arrested Hosea Askew, 52, and his 62-year-old wife Mercedes Askew in Richmond last weekend, one day after the shooting that left 29-year-old Diante Craig dead. Hosea was charged Friday with murder, shooting at an occupied vehicle and assault with a semiautomatic firearm, according to court papers. His wife was not present during the shooting but had rented the car her husband was driving when it happened, according to court papers, and the Alameda County district attorney’s office charged her as an accessory after the fact, which is a felony.

In court documents, police wrote that the shooting “began as a road rage incident” as the two men were driving west on University Avenue, but shared no further details about what might have happened. Witness statements and video footage were the basis for their determination.

The homicide took place March 20 at about 12:20 p.m. Neighbors on Chestnut Street told Berkeleyside they heard a huge crash, then looked outside and saw one vehicle speeding from the scene. The man who had been killed was still in his dark blue SUV. He had struck a parked car and was slumped over in the driver’s seat. His sister was in the car with him when the shooting happened.

The Berkeley Fire Department arrived within minutes but could not revive Craig. The Richmond resident was pronounced dead at the scene. He had suffered at least one gunshot wound, according to BPD. Police found a casing at the scene, they wrote.

Detectives responded quickly and launched the investigation to find the person who was responsible for the killing, BPD said. Their work ultimately led them to Hosea Askew.

Police wrote that a witness identified Askew as the shooter during a photo line-up. During his arrest, detectives found a pistol in his home that had recently been cleaned, according to court papers. Detectives also found evidence that Askew had been in Berkeley “just prior to the homicide,” police wrote.

Askew admitted to police that he had been in Berkeley that day, but denied being on University Avenue, according to court papers. Police showed him video evidence to the contrary and he then “denied being in any altercations” and said he had never seen the victim or his vehicle, according to BPD.

Askew invoked his right to an attorney when police presented him with further evidence, according to court papers. When they asked for a DNA sample, police wrote, “Hosea was hesitant and later threatened Detectives with a law suit.”

As part of their investigation, police identified the vehicle that had been used during the shooting as a blue Nissan Versa that had been rented from Hertz, according to court papers. Police tracked the Nissan to San Francisco, where they learned it had already been exchanged for another vehicle.

The Askews had returned the Nissan to Hertz “with a cover story that there was a mechanical issue,” police wrote.

Detectives then found the vehicle it had been exchanged for in front of the Askew home in Richmond, according to BPD. They identified Mercedes Askew as the person who had rented the Nissan and said she had assisted her husband “in avoiding arrest.”

When Berkeley police surrounded the couple’s home and called Mercedes on the phone, according to BPD, she stalled for nearly 30 minutes by saying her husband wasn’t there, “that they had the wrong number and [that] her name was ‘Janet.'” She also told police “she had no idea” why officers would have been there and “was adamant” she had spent the entire day with her husband Friday when the killing had taken place, according to BPD.

She also told police the Nissan had never left her secured parking lot and said, when confronted with video of the car in Berkeley, that it “must have been stolen and returned,” according to authorities. She referenced a homicide investigation multiple times even though police had never mentioned the scope of the case to her, BPD wrote.

“Mercedes later recanted her story that Hosea was with her all day and that the car must have been stolen,” police wrote.

Hosea Askew remains in custody without bail at Santa Rita Jail and is set for an attorney and plea hearing Wednesday at the East County Hall of Justice in Dublin, according to jail records online. Mercedes Askew did not appear to be in custody as of Friday evening.

Berkeleyside updated this story after publication to include additional details from court documents.

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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...