Police confiscated this axe during an assault earlier this month. Photo: BPD

Berkeleyside regularly reports on notable Berkeley crimes, which include incidents that involve violence or weapons, or that readers have asked about. Arrestees are innocent until proven guilty. Berkeley police calls have dropped amid the coronavirus pandemic but have been ticking slightly back up, police told Berkeleyside this week. January and February averaged about 6,300 calls each month, while March — when shelter-in-place orders went into effect mid-month — had approximately 5,400 calls for service. April and May had an average of 4,600 calls each month. As of June 23, police had received about 3,700 calls, meaning June will surpass recent monthly averages if the pace continues.

CHARGES FILED AFTER VIOLENT STREET ROBBERY A 28-year-old man on probation is now facing felony assault and robbery charges after authorities say he attacked a resident who confronted him as he peered into the windows of a home on Emerson Street on Sunday morning. According to police, a man in the 2100 block of Emerson (near Shattuck Avenue) saw the stranger — later identified as James McMillan — looking into his neighbor’s windows. When he asked McMillan what he was doing, police said, McMillan “clenched his fists, took a fighting stance and demanded money from the resident. When the resident refused, the suspect punched the resident in the face.”

When officers arrived moments later, BPD said, they saw McMillan kicking and punching the neighbor. Police tried to stop McMillan but he walked away, BPD said. Police called for backup and were able to arrest McMillan two blocks away. On Monday, the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office charged McMillan with felony robbery and assault. According to the charges, McMillan was on felony probation at the time of Sunday’s incident.

McMillan has prior convictions for felony kidnapping, assault and trespassing, according to Alameda County Superior Court records online. He remains in custody at Santa Rita Jail with a bail of $285,000 and is scheduled for his preliminary hearing — where a judge determines if there is enough evidence for a case to go to trial — on July 22.

NUMEROUS ROBBERIES IN BERKELEY IN JUNE Berkeley had at least 23 robberies in the past four weeks (between May 29 and June 25), according to CrimeMapping.com, a repository of local police data. Over the years, Berkeley has tended to average about one robbery a day. BPD shared information about several recent robberies — one of which was a home-invasion robbery — in a crime roundup earlier this week.

On June 10 at 7 p.m., a woman in her 40s was walking when someone hit her in the back of the head and shoved her to the ground. As she yelled for help, two male suspects grabbed her cellphone from her hands. The incident took place on Adeline Street as the woman approached 63rd Street. After the robbery, the suspects ran west on 63rd, police said.

About 24 hours later, on June 11 at 6:50 p.m., a woman was walking on Bowditch Street west of Channing Way when someone ran up to her from behind, pushed her to the ground and grabbed her purse. The assailant ran to an older model white sedan that was waiting for him, then fled. The man was described as in his 20s, about 6 feet tall, and wore a white T-shirt and jeans.

Later that night, at about 10, a woman in her 30s was walking at Channing and Milvia Street when someone walked up behind her and demanded her purse and phone. After the robbery, the suspect got into a white sedan, which had several people inside, and left the area. Police said the robber was in his late teens or early 20s, about 5 feet 10 to 6 feet tall with short hair, wearing a T-shirt and gray sweatpants.

On June 13 at about 10:15 p.m., a man in his 40s was walking at Allston Way and San Pablo Avenue when two people got out of a parked vehicle and confronted him: “Fearing that he was about to be robbed, the man ran away. Unable to catch the man, the two suspects moved on to rob another bystander in the area — punching the bystander in the throat and taking his cellphone,” police said. The suspects in that incident got into a mid-sized white sedan and left the area. Both men wore dark clothing.

On June 16, a resident in the 1400 block of Spruce Street (near Rose Street) woke up at 4:15 a.m. to see a man in his 50s taking items from her backpack and purse. The woman confronted the man, which led to a struggle, BPD said. The man, who was about 6 feet tall and wore dark clothing, ran from the building.

MAN THREATENED BY ASSAILANT WITH AN AXE A man in his 50s was sitting on San Pablo Avenue near the 99 Cents Only store (near University Avenue) on June 7 when he was assaulted and threatened by a stranger with an axe, police report. The man had been watching a movie on his cellphone shortly before 11 a.m. when the other person walked up to him and began yelling at him. The victim told the other man to leave him alone, and the stranger walked away.

But the assailant returned a short time later, police said, “got in the man’s face and started punching him in the head.” There was a brief struggle, said BPD, and the man left again only to return with an axe. He threatened to kill the other man and then “swung the axe at a parked vehicle — leaving a hole in the hood.” When officers got to the scene, the man with the axe was chasing the other man. Officers were able to detain the armed man without injuries, BPD said. On June 9, the DA’s office charged the alleged assailant, a 46-year-old man* with no address provided, with brandishing a weapon, criminal threats and battery, all of which are misdemeanors. He is currently being assessed for mental competency, according to Alameda County Superior Court records online.

MAN CHARGED WITH HITTING DOWNTOWN ‘AMBASSADOR’ On June 8, a man in his 70s working as an “ambassador” for the Downtown Berkeley Association was crossing the street at about 5:10 p.m. when another man elbowed him in the face, knocking him to the ground, BPD reports. The incident happened at Shattuck Avenue and Kittredge Street. According to BPD, the assailant had “raised his arm and elbowed the Ambassador in his face” after the ambassador “looked over” at him due to his close proximity in the roadway. The injured man called for help from colleagues who followed the assailant as he ran away.

BPD said police arrested the culprit — a 24-year-old* with no address listed — near Telegraph Avenue and Howe Street, about 1 mile away. When officers found him, he “was still being chased” by other ambassadors from the DBA program. Police said the arrested man “kicked an officer in his shin and repeatedly threatened to kill officers and jail staff” after he was in custody.

On June 10, the DA’s office charged the 24-year-old with elder abuse and battery on emergency personnel, both of which are misdemeanors.

YEAR-TO-DATE CRIME STATS So far in 2020, according to the most recent information available from BPD, there have been about 1,900 Part 1 crimes reported. To date, there have been 122 reported robberies, 25 rapes and 45 aggravated assaults, for a preliminary total of 194 violent Part 1 crimes in 2020. As for property crimes, there have been 196 home burglaries and 125 commercial burglaries. Of the theft reports, 245 were grand thefts, 535 were petty thefts and 283 were auto burglaries, according to BPD data. There have also been 306 vehicle theft reports and eight arsons. Property crimes total about 1,700 incidents so far this year. All figures are preliminary and may change throughout the course of an investigation.

The Berkeley Police Department publishes an arrest log and a calls for service log on its open data portal. Berkeley police data also appears on the CrimeMapping website.

* In most cases, Berkeleyside does not publish defendant names in misdemeanor cases. Berkeleyside updated the four-week robbery data after publication once BPD updated the CrimeMapping data in response to a Berkeleyside inquiry about delayed reporting. 

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...