A roundup of some of the most serious crimes in Berkeley over the past month appears below. Send tips to Berkeleyside with your public safety questions. Arrested or charged individuals are presumed innocent.
GUN FOUND NEAR BERKELEY-OAKLAND BORDER A local resident told Berkeleyside about the discovery Friday morning of a loaded gun (pictured above) that was found “in the mowing strip between the sidewalk and street” in front of a home in the 1800 block of 63rd Street in South Berkeley. He said Berkeley police came and removed the gun; BPD confirmed this information. The investigation is ongoing, police said. Police have recovered 33 guns in Berkeley so far this year, BPD spokesperson Officer Byron White said Tuesday. Last year as of this time, 22 guns had been recovered.
ANTI-JEWISH HATE CRIMES PROMPT ARREST Berkeley police arrested a 39-year-old man earlier this month after connecting him to three separate hate crimes described by police as antisemitic. Police say David Denton (no address) vandalized a Berkeley synagogue and a private home and also burglarized a Jewish community center. The incidents all took place within about 24 hours from April 29-30.
Sometime between 4 a.m. and 6 a.m. on April 29, police say Denton wrote graffiti “referencing those of Jewish faith” on a home in the 2500 block of Warring Street “and also destroyed a Jewish religious artifact” there. About 12 hours later, police said Denton vandalized Congregation Beth El, at 1301 Oxford St., with antisemitic writing. He also destroyed “religious artifacts,” police said, and left a “handmade reverse swastika.” Early the next morning, according to police, Denton went to a Jewish community center in the 2700 block of Bancroft Way between about 2:30 and 4:35 and “wrote several bizarre messages in English and Hebrew that referenced Judaism, rearranged some items into shrines and also took some items.”
Police said surveillance video of the incidents led them to Denton. They ultimately found him May 3 in Civic Center Park and arrested him on suspicion of burglary, vandalism and a hate crime identified as damaging property for the purpose of intimidating or interfering with the free exercise or enjoyment of any right or privilege secured to the other person by the Constitution. On Monday, the Alameda County district attorney’s office charged Denton with felony burglary and a handful of misdemeanors, including the hate crime described above. Denton is no longer in custody, according to county booking records.
Last week, J. The Jewish News of Northern California spoke with several people associated with the targeted locations. At least two of them said mental health appeared to be a factor in the hate crime series: “We just want this person to not be allowed back on our property and to get some mental health treatment,” one of them told the news organization.
ROLLOVER CRASH ON UNIVERSITY Readers asked Berkeleyside about a crash Saturday evening on University Avenue that sent one man to the hospital. Police said the crash took place at about 6 p.m. just west of Grant Street in central Berkeley. Police said the driver of a green car had been westbound on University when he collided with a parked vehicle and overturned. The driver, a 57-year-old Berkeley man, was taken to the hospital for a complaint of pain, BPD said. His condition was not available this week. BPD said there were other occupants in the man’s vehicle but that none of them required medical transport. The primary collision factor was listed as unsafe speed, BPD said, but no additional information was available.
ATTEMPTED ROBBERY Police arrested a 43-year-old Berkeley man on suspicion of attempted robbery after he reportedly opened a woman’s car door while she was parked on University Avenue early Monday morning. The 21-year-old Berkeley woman was parked at 2:15 a.m. in the 1900 block of University Avenue, near Martin Luther King Jr. Way in central Berkeley, when the man “suddenly opened her front passenger door,” police said in response to a Berkeleyside inquiry. “Fearing that she would be the victim of a crime, the woman drove off.” Police responded and arrested Michael Mosteller nearby. He remains in custody at Santa Rita Jail with a bail of $50,000, according to court records online. He is scheduled for arraignment Wednesday at Wiley W. Manuel Courthouse in Oakland.
OHLONE PARK ATTACK, ROBBERY Police arrested a 22-year-old Berkeley man in connection with a violent robbery in Ohlone Park on Sunday morning. BPD said Aaron Jordan initially approached another park-goer, a 52-year-old Berkeley man, to ask for cigarettes. When that man declined, BPD said, Jordan “punched the person in the face with a closed fist.” Jordan then “pulled the victim’s hood over his head, which led to a struggle.” At that point, according to BPD, Jordan took the man’s backpack and ran away. BPD later found Jordan walking in downtown Berkeley and arrested him. Jordan remains in custody with a bail of more than $120,000 and is scheduled for arraignment Wednesday at the East County Hall of Justice in Dublin.
FORMER PIMP TIED TO ARMED ROBBERY AT GAS STATION A former pimp found sleeping in a stolen truck has been charged with the armed robbery of a Berkeley gas station in late April, authorities report. The robbery took place just after 7:15 a.m. April 22 at the Chevron gas station at 1500 University Ave. (at Sacramento Street) in central Berkeley. In that incident, police said a man pulled out a gun and demanded cash from the clerk, then drove away in a pickup truck. Several days later, on April 26, officers from the Alameda County Regional Auto Theft Task Force found that truck, which had been reported stolen, BPD said. Inside, a man later identified as 61-year-old Donald Corsetti (no address) was sleeping.
Authorities arrested Corsetti and, on April 27, the DA’s office charged him with robbery and vehicle theft, as well as an allegation that he was on felony probation at the time of the new crimes, according to court records. Corsetti’s convictions date back to 1982 when he was found guilty of pimping; in the 1980s, he was convicted twice of escape, once “by force or violence,” according to court records. Felony convictions from the ’90s included drug sales and assault on a peace officer or firefighter. Since 2000, he has been convicted of assault with a deadly weapon, robbery and grand theft — all felonies — as well as, in 2013, a special allegation for having three strikes.
Corsetti, who has also been charged with violating his parole and with a separate robbery on April 25, is being held in connection with multiple cases on a bail of nearly $900,000, according to booking records online. He is scheduled to enter a plea June 2.
PRC VOTES TO BAN “NO-KNOCK” WARRANTS Last week, Berkeley’s Police Review Commission unanimously voted to ban “no-knock” warrants in Berkeley. Police will now review the recommendation to determine whether to update its warrant policy or not. If there is disagreement, the item could ultimately come to the City Council.
WOMAN CHARGED WITH BURGLARY, MAIL THEFT A woman reported to have walked into a Southside Berkeley home to steal an iPad before trying to hide in People’s Park is facing a felony burglary charge and an allegation of misdemeanor mail theft, according to court records and police.
On May 8 just after 2 p.m., police responded to a home in the 2500 block of Hillegass Avenue, right next to People’s Park, for the burglary report. BPD said residents of the home as well as some neighbors had confronted the woman, identified as 44-year-old Tiffany Henneman (no address), and recovered the stolen iPad. But Henneman left the area and went into the park before police could arrive, BPD said.
Witnesses then pointed her out to officers, who took her into custody in the park, BPD said: “When the officers detained the suspect, they discovered she was had several pieces of US Mail that were addressed to a dozen different people.” On May 10, the Alameda County district attorney’s office charged Henneman with burglary — including an allegation that someone was home at the time of the crime — and mail theft. Henneman has a 2016 burglary conviction, which was counted as her first strike, according to court records. In 2014, she was also convicted of commercial burglary, according to court records. She remains in custody with a bail of $175,000 and is scheduled for a preliminary hearing, where a judge decides if the case will go to trial, on June 9.
PAIR CHARGED WITH ROBBERY, ID THEFT This month, police arrested two men in connection with an armed robbery in North Berkeley in December, authorities report, and they are now facing felony charges. On Dec. 17, a man was walking near Virginia Street and McGee Avenue just after 7:30 a.m. when two men in a minivan pulled up beside him. Police said a man with a gun got out of the van and demanded the pedestrian’s wallet. Afraid for his safety, the man gave up the wallet and the pair drove off. BPD said their investigation led them to identify the culprits as 40-year-old Adrian Diaz and 27-year-old Jesus Valadez. (Neither man had a permanent address on file, police said.)
San Pablo PD arrested Diaz on May 7, BPD said, and Berkeley detectives found Valadez on May 11 at an encampment in Richmond. Last week, the Alameda County district attorney’s office charged both men with robbery and identity theft, according to BPD. Both men are out of custody, according to records online. They are scheduled to appear in court May 24.
LOADED GUN SEIZED DURING TRAFFIC STOP Police arrested a 23-year-old Oakland man with a loaded gun after pulling him over on suspicion of driving at an unsafe speed May 1, authorities report. Just after 3:30 a.m., police stopped the driver, identified as Lamar Runnels, near Derby Street and Martin Luther King Jr. Way in South Berkeley, BPD said. When BPD searched Runnels, police said, they found him to be armed with a loaded handgun. During a search of his vehicle, they also found a small baggie of what was identified as MDMA or methamphetamine, according to BPD.
Police arrested Runnels in connection with the firearm and drugs, and also arrested one of his passengers, a 28-year-old Berkeley man, in connection with outstanding arrest warrants. The DA’s office charged Runnels on Wednesday with carrying a concealed loaded firearm, which is a misdemeanor. He is no longer in custody, according to court records online. He is scheduled for arraignment July 1 at the Wiley Manuel Courthouse in Oakland.
MAN CHARGED WITH DRUG SALES, DV Police interrupted a fight inside a tent during an encampment cleanup earlier this month and ultimately arrested a man on suspicion of domestic violence and drug sales, authorities report. Officers from BPD’s Community Services Bureau had joined city Public Works and Neighborhood Services staff for a cleanup on Shattuck Avenue at Derby Street in South Berkeley at 10 a.m. May 5 when they heard the fight underway: Police “determined there was a domestic violence incident in progress. They separated the parties and conducted an investigation, which showed the altercation began when a male resident accused a female resident of the tent of stealing $700 from him.”
The man, later identified as 43-year-old Ramondo Mackey, was arrested on suspicion of domestic violence causing visible injury. Police said they also found 43 grams of methamphetamine in Mackey’s possession and arrested him on suspicion of drug sales. Mackey is no longer in custody, according to court records online, but he was charged with felony drug sales and misdemeanor domestic violence.
Catalytic converter thefts continue to be a problem
There have been 196 catalytic converter thefts in Berkeley so far this year, police said after publication.
PAIR ARRESTED WITH BURGLARY TOOLS Police arrested two men with a slew of “burglary tools” after an alert resident spotted them trying to steal a catalytic converter in late April, authorities report. On April 25 at 9:45 p.m., BPD said, the resident reported the theft attempt underway in the 2200 block of San Pablo Avenue near Allston Way in West Berkeley. Police said the pair realized they had been found out and decided to drive away. But responding officers saw their vehicle and pulled them over: “When officers searched the suspect vehicle, they discovered multiple saws, wrenches, drills and pry tools.” Police also inspected the vehicle where the men had reportedly been working, and found that its catalytic converter had been partially removed, BPD said. BPD identified the men as 42-year-old Pinole resident Adrian Rojo and 38-year-old Robert Laubach of Martinez. They were arrested on suspicion of attempted grand theft, possession of burglary tools and conspiracy. Neither man was in custody and charges had not been filed as of publication time.
MAN ARRESTED TWICE AFTER CATALYTIC CONVERTER THEFTS Police reported the arrest of the same man twice in less than a month in connection with separate catalytic converter theft investigations in Berkeley. On Feb. 26 just before 3:45 a.m., police got a report about two people who were trying to steal a catalytic converter from a Toyota Prius parked in a driveway in the 900 block of Creston Road (near Marin Avenue) in the Berkeley Hills. Police said the victim interrupted the thieves, “who jumped into an idling car driven by a third person and fled, leaving the victim vehicle up on jacks.” Responding officers stopped the getaway car on Creston Road, BPD said: “During the detention, officers saw a reciprocating saw in plain view in the car, and also located jack handles in the car.” Police arrested the driver, 39-year-old Gerardo Estrada of Oakland, and his passengers, 36-year-old Ramon Lopez of Richmond and 36-year-old Mario Ortiz (no address), on suspicion of attempted grand theft, possession of burglary tools and conspiracy.
Three weeks later, on March 19, BPD was called to Shattuck and Ashby avenues in South Berkeley on a report of two people trying to steal a catalytic converter just after midnight. Arriving officers “found two men seated in a parked car directly across the street from the victim vehicle. As they neared the suspect car they heard a police radio scanner coming from inside the car. They also observed a floor jack and a reciprocating saw in plain view inside the suspect car. A subsequent search of the vehicle found tools commonly used to steal catalytic converters, including two reciprocating saws, vehicle jacks, a cordless drill, 10 reciprocating saw blades, and a battery and charger.”
Police said the men also had a half-ounce of methamphetamine with them at the time of their arrest. Police identified one of the men as Estrada and the other as 44-year-old Juan Avalos of Oakland, BPD said. Police arrested the pair on suspicion of attempted grand theft, possession for sale of methamphetamine, possession of drug paraphernalia and conspiracy. A search of one of the men’s cellphones also “revealed further evidence of theft and narcotic sales,” according to BPD.
None of the men are in custody and none appeared to have been charged as of publication time. (Charging decisions generally take longer when individuals are out of custody, as an increasing number of people have been throughout the course of the COVID-19 pandemic.)
Berkeley crime resources
CRIME SNAPSHOT From Jan. 1 through May 17 (the most recent date available), there were reports of at least 112 robberies, 265 burglaries, 239 assaults or batteries, 58 weapon-involved calls, 16 sex crimes and 28 arson calls, according to CrimeMapping.com, an official repository for local police data. (Click the “show crime report” box that appears toward the top of each linked page to display a list of incidents below the map.) There were also 366 stolen vehicles, 226 disturbances and 459 auto break-ins reported, according to CrimeMapping.
MORE POLICE DATA Find statistics related to BPD calls for service, arrests, jail bookings and demographic information, and other details, about police stops in the city’s open data portal. The city also posts a heat map showing 180 days of calls for service. See the crimes reported to BPD on CrimeMapping. The University of California Police Department used to post crime reports on CrimeMapping but it doesn’t seem to do so any longer. UCPD’s daily police log is online.