A man in the midst of a mental health crisis was run over by a driver on Monday night after he lay down on Telegraph Avenue in South Berkeley, authorities report.
Update, July 8: The man who was hit later died; police still wish to talk to the driver
As of Wednesday, the man remained in the hospital in critical condition and police are still hoping to speak with the driver who hit him. The incident took place just after 9:30 p.m. on Telegraph between Webster Street and Ashby Avenue.
Police said the driver, who was northbound on Telegraph, struck the 50-year-old man as he lay in the street. The Oakland man was taken to Highland Hospital with serious injuries.
The driver left the area, continuing north on Telegraph, in what police described as a “lowered, dark-color, mid 90’s sedan, with tinted windows (possibly a Nissan Altima).”
The department sent its Fatal Accident Investigation Team to the scene to investigate the crash.
Police said they hope the driver will come forward on his or her own, and have also asked anyone with information or surveillance footage of the collision to call BPD’s Traffic Unit at 510-981-5980.
As of Wednesday, police said it was still unclear about what may have prompted the man to go into the street.
“He definitely was in crisis. He was in need of some help,” said Officer Byron White, BPD spokesperson.
White said several people had called police Monday night to report that the man was yelling and in apparent distress in or near the Whole Foods store at Ashby and Telegraph. Callers then saw the man walk into the roadway and lie down. After the driver struck the man, a doctor who happened to be in the area rendered aid until first responders arrived, White said.
Whole Foods staff told police they recognized the man from the prior week when he walked inside the store and made suicidal threats.
On Tuesday night, Berkeley officials discussed what has been described as a growing mental health crisis on city streets. As a result, the City Council is looking at boosting funding for mental health outreach services and crisis response by $7 million in the upcoming fiscal year.
Speaking during public comment, local resident Carole Marasovic, who serves on the city’s Homeless Commission, told officials she herself had seen similar behavior in Berkeley twice before from people who were trying to end their lives. She urged the city to do what it can to fill two long-vacant positions on the city’s four-person Mobile Crisis Team.
“When someone seriously wants to commit suicide,” she said, “that cannot be handled by an outreach worker. That needs a crisis worker.”
Alameda County has a range of services for people in mental health crisis. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available 24 hours a day at 800-273-8255.