Update, May 20: The Alameda County district attorney’s office charged Nickolas Perez on Wednesday with annoying a child and cruelty to a child, both of which are misdemeanors. He was still in custody as of Thursday, according to booking records online.
Original story: Berkeley police arrested a 33-year-old man on Tuesday after he reportedly chased a little girl who was walking home from school with her father in the Elmwood neighborhood.
The man had recently been arrested but had since been released, police said, after entering a secure playground at an Elmwood neighborhood church “and threatening to take the children.”
On Tuesday at 3:30 p.m., said Officer Byron White, BPD spokesperson, in response to a Berkeleyside inquiry, the father and his 8-year-old daughter were walking home when a stranger approached them on Ashby Avenue near College Avenue.
The man — later identified as Nickolas Perez (no address) — “focused on the 8-year-old girl and started talking to her as if she was his own,” White said. The girl got scared and ran from Perez, who chased her while her father tried to block Perez’s path, White said.
According to police, Perez continued to chase the child for nearly a quarter-mile, first going eastbound on Ashby Avenue. At one point, the girl ran into the roadway in her efforts to escape and her father had to pull her back, White said. Perez then chased the girl onto Piedmont Avenue and then onto Russell Street, BPD said.
“That’s my daughter,” Perez called out, according to BPD.
At least one person, who was riding a bicycle through the neighborhood, tried to intervene, White said. The cyclist followed Perez, according to BPD, telling him to stop his pursuit and trying to dissuade him from grabbing the child.
Toward the end of the chase, the girl hid behind some bushes to stay safe, White said. She and her father ultimately were able to take refuge at a Berkeley fire station, at 2710 Russell St., and firefighters called BPD for emergency assistance.
A short time after firefighters called police, officers found Perez near Claremont Avenue and The Uplands, about a half-mile from the fire station. Police arrested Perez on suspicion of harassing or annoying a child and willfully causing a child to suffer, both of which are misdemeanors.
“We are thankful for the fire department and others in the community we may not even know about,” White said, “who were able to prevent the suspect from harming a young member of our community. It was very clear that she was quite traumatized from this event, justifiably so, if a stranger is trying to take you for reasons unknown.”
At the time of his arrest, White said, officers recognized Perez from a prior incident, May 5, where Perez had entered the playground of a church childcare center in the 2700 block of College Avenue (near Garber Street). In that incident, White said, Perez was arrested after he began yelling and threatening to take children that were in the area.
Perez remains in custody at Santa Rita Jail in Dublin, according to booking records online, and is scheduled for arraignment Thursday morning. No bail was listed.
Berkeleyside asked BPD for information about the case on Tuesday afternoon and published this story as soon as it became available.