A roundup of some of the most serious crimes in Berkeley over the past few weeks appears below. Send tips to Berkeleyside with your public safety questions. Arrested or charged individuals are presumed innocent.
SHARE MORE OF YOUR THOUGHTS ON PUBLIC SAFETY The city currently has two surveys going to collect input about public safety. Last month, the city asked people to weigh in about what “a new model of public safety” might look like in Berkeley. That survey, which is part of the city’s ongoing efforts to reimagine policing, is open through June 15. Last week, the Police Review Commission launched its own community survey to ask for feedback about the commission’s work, “particularly in regards to its process for handling complaints about Berkeley police officers.” The anonymous survey about the PRC is open through June 16.
GUNFIRE AT BERKELEY PARK Gunfire broke out at a popular Berkeley park last weekend, drawing concern from local residents. On Sunday just after 6:45 p.m., police responded to San Pablo Park in southwest Berkeley to investigate the shooting. No one was wounded, BPD said, but officers found evidence of gunfire on Mabel Street, which intersects the southern border of the park. Police asked anyone with information about the shooting or surveillance camera footage to call homicide detectives at 510-981-5741. Callers can remain anonymous, BPD said.
People familiar with the incident told Berkeleyside that bullets struck two vehicles, including one that was occupied at the time of the shooting. At the time of the incident, many people were using the park, including neighborhood children and community members playing tennis. Police found casings in the same area at the beginning of May.
There have already been 16 gunfire calls in Berkeley this year, up from six as of this time last year. Councilmember Terry Taplin broached the subject of the uptick in shootings during Tuesday’s council meeting: “As we continue to reimagine public safety, I challenge each of us to continue our pursuits of evidence-based, data-driven, and creative solutions to the crisis of gun violence affecting our communities,” he said. “We can’t afford to counterpoise our attempts to address the root causes of community violence against our efforts to respond to violent crimes when they come to fruition. We must do both in order to ensure the safety of our city.”
MORE HATE CRIME ARRESTS Berkeley police continue to make arrests in relation to hate crimes in the city, with three new incidents in May. On May 16, police say Thomas Kravit, 60, walked into Casa Latina Bakery, at 1805 San Pablo Ave. (at Delaware Street), and “began pointing at different customers — simulating a firearm with his hand and telling them he was going to kill them.” According to BPD, Kravit also cursed at restaurant staff “and made disparaging comments toward people of Mexican descent.” When a worker asked the man to leave, BPD said, Kravit said “he wanted to kill him and placed his hands inside his waistband (as if he was reaching for a weapon).” On May 26 at 1:30 p.m., police found Kravit (no permanent address) at Willard Park in the Elmwood neighborhood and arrested him on suspicion of making criminal threats and the hate crime of willfully threatening a person based on their perceived characteristics.
On May 27, according to Alameda County Superior Court records, the district attorney’s office charged Kravit with both of those crimes, which are listed as misdemeanors. Kravit, who is a photographer according to his booking record, remains in custody at Santa Rita Jail with a bail of $25,000 and is scheduled for a readiness hearing at the René C. Davidson Courthouse in Oakland on June 17.
Three days after the Casa Latina incident, police said a man identified as 63-year-old Calep Davis of Berkeley went into 7-Eleven, at 2000 San Pablo Ave. (at University Ave.), and opened a bag of chips. When the clerk asked him to leave, BPD said, Davis “became aggressive and started yelling threatening statements and comments that are disparaging of persons of foreign descent.”
When officers tried to stop Davis nearby, he ran through traffic on University Avenue and only stopped when he “tripped over his own feet,” BPD said. Police arrested Davis on suspicion of vandalism, resisting arrest and the hate crime of willfully threatening a person based on their perceived characteristics.
On May 19, the district attorney’s office charged Davis with violation of civil rights, obstructing or intimidating a business owner, and resisting arrest, all of which are misdemeanors. According to jail records, Davis remains in custody at Berkeley Jail and is scheduled for arraignment July 19 at the Wiley Manuel Courthouse in Oakland
The next hate crime report came May 23 at 11:45 a.m. outside Nation’s Giant Hamburgers, at 1800 University in downtown Berkeley. Police said Berkeley resident Juan Johnson, 61, struck someone in the back and “yelled comments disparaging of persons of Caucasian descent.” BPD arrested Johnson on suspicion of battery and the hate crime of willfully threatening a person based on their perceived characteristics. According to court records online, Johnson is not in custody and has not been charged.
Hate crime arrests have become more common in Berkeley, or at least better publicized by authorities, following the wave of anti-Asian hate incidents earlier this year. As of early May, the most recent data available, police said there had already been eight hate crime reports in Berkeley in 2021. There were 12 hate crime incidents reported in Berkeley throughout all of 2020.
In January, police arrested a 55-year-old woman on suspicion of a hate crime after she reportedly “yelled several hateful statements about people of Mexican descent” during a violent encounter downtown. She was ultimately charged only with misdemeanor battery in connection with that incident, according to court records. The same woman was charged with a hate crime in early May, however, after reportedly making anti-Asian slurs during a different interaction in Berkeley.
In April, police arrested a 35-year-old Berkeley woman on suspicion of a hate crime after she reportedly called a delivery driver the N-word during an altercation about driving. Police also arrested a 29-year-old man in April on suspicion of a hate crime when he allegedly followed two men and made disparaging remarks about their Chinese heritage. Charges have not been filed in either case.
Also in April, a 39-year-old man reportedly vandalized a Berkeley synagogue and burglarized a Jewish community center; he was later charged with a hate crime.
A hate crime is defined as any crime against a person, group or property motivated by the victim’s real or perceived protected social group, police said in a prepared statement, adding: “The Berkeley Police Department recognizes and places a high priority on the rights of all individuals guaranteed under state and federal law. The commission of a hate crime is a serious offense, which will not be tolerated in the City of Berkeley.”
STRANDED MOTORIST FOUND WITH LOADED GUN A Berkeley police officer found a loaded gun while assisting a man whose car had stalled in West Berkeley, authorities report. On May 30 just after 1 a.m., the officer stopped to help the driver on University Avenue near West Frontage Road. The driver told police his engine had overheated and that he could not call for a tow because his phone was out of power, BPD said.
The officer called for a tow truck on the driver’s behalf and then began to complete an inventory of the items inside the car, which is standard procedure prior to a tow, BPD said: “While looking inside the vehicle, the officer discovered a loaded handgun underneath the driver’s seat. When the officer attempted to detain the man, the man ran away,” BPD said. Other officers found the man, identified as 22-year-old Joshua Rosemon of Vallejo, east of the freeway and arrested him on suspicion of carrying a loaded, concealed firearm and resisting arrest.
Rosemon is no longer in custody and charges have not been filed. (Charging decisions generally take longer when individuals are out of custody, as an increasing number of people have been due to reduced bail amounts throughout the course of the COVID-19 pandemic.)
GRIZZLY PEAK POLICING AGREEMENT On Tuesday, the Berkeley City Council approved an agreement designed to improve safety along Grizzly Peak Boulevard by formalizing the existing partnership among the agencies with jurisdiction there. These include Berkeley PD, the Oakland Police Department, the University of California Police Department, East Bay Regional Park District, Contra Costa County Sheriff’s Department, the East Bay Municipal Utilities District and the city of Orinda.
Authorities note in the report that fire-safety concerns came up last year when people began “using the blocked-off turn-outs as areas to set up a stage with live performers, bon fires, and fireworks. In the spring of 2020, OFD tracked 6 wildfires on Grizzly Peak in a short 6-week period, the majority of which were caused by fireworks during these gatherings.” Last fall, authorities put up barriers to close the turnouts as a result. The road is classified as a “High Fire Severity Zone,” according to Tuesday’s report. More recently, a spate of robberies of cyclists sparked community concern. The armed robbery series was not mentioned in the staff report.
MAN CHARGED WITH SECOND STRIKE An Oakland man has been charged with robbery after police say he spat at a woman in her 60s and punched a younger man in the face during a robbery outside Target Express on May 24. Police responded at 6:35 p.m. to the 2100 block of Shattuck Avenue (near Addison Street downtown) on a report of a man who had attacked several people near Target.
Police said the man, identified as Marquise Okoronkwo, spat at the woman and demanded her phone, trying to take it from her hands. But he managed to get only her pushcart, police said, which he then threw into the street. Officers learned, during the investigation, that Okoronkwo had also punched a man in his 20s during the incident, BPD said. Police arrested Okoronkwo on suspicion of robbery, elder abuse, battery and violation of probation, BPD said.
According to court records, Okoronkwo has been charged with robbery, as well as an enhancement that would make it his second strike if he is convicted. He was also charged with misdemeanor battery, according to court records. He had just been convicted in March of three counts of felony vandalism and has a felony burglary conviction from 2019, according to court records. Okoronkwo remains in custody at Santa Rita Jail in Dublin with a bail of $145,000 and is scheduled to enter a plea June 14 at the East County Hall of Justice.
STOLEN GUN AT THE MARINA A loose bullet officers saw while talking to two people in a parked car led to the discovery of a loaded, stolen gun at the Berkeley Marina, authorities report. Police on patrol May 24 saw the car parked in a no-parking area at Spinnaker Circle at 2 a.m., BPD said. As officers talked with a man and woman in the car, BPD said, they saw the bullet in the vehicle’s center console. Police then searched the vehicle, BPD said, and found a loaded handgun under the seat. The gun had been reported stolen, according to BPD.
Police arrested Andre Richards, 26, on suspicion of carrying a loaded, concealed firearm. According to court records, Richards is not in custody and has not been charged. According to court records, Richards had also been arrested with a loaded gun in 2017, but the case was later dismissed.
Berkeley crime resources
CRIME SNAPSHOT From Jan. 1 through May 24 (the most recent date available), there were reports of at least 119 robberies, 281 burglaries, 253 assaults or batteries, 63 weapon-involved calls, 17 sex crimes and 29 arson calls, according to CrimeMapping.com, an official repository for local police data. There were also 376 stolen vehicles, 236 disturbances and 488 auto break-ins reported, according to CrimeMapping, and 835 theft reports: 558 misdemeanor thefts (under $950), 267 grand thefts (over $950) and 10 thefts from a person.
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.