Berkeley police shut down youth football game after large fight, gun arrests

Representatives of the Berkeley Jr Jackets said they are working to create a positive environment for youth and would like more support from the city.

Police at Berkeley High during a youth football game with arrests
“We’re shutting down the game,” an officer said over the radio. “We can’t ensure public safety. Everybody needs to leave.” Credit: Ariel Nava

Police arrested a Berkeley man and a 14-year-old boy from Sacramento on Sunday in connection with reports of a gun at a youth football game taking place at Berkeley High School, authorities report.

Police recovered a loaded gun in the man’s possession early Sunday evening then made the decision to disband the crowd, according to radio traffic reviewed by Berkeleyside.

“We’re shutting down the game,” an officer said over the radio. “We can’t ensure public safety. Everybody needs to leave.”

The gun call followed reports of a large fight earlier in the afternoon involving dozens of adults. That fight, which was reported in the courtyard near the bleachers around 2:30 p.m., was breaking up when police arrived to investigate. No arrests were made at that time, BPD said.

But, three hours later, BPD began getting reports of a teenager in Sacramento football gear who reportedly had a firearm, police said. Witnesses told police he was “last seen running onto the football field” and that he had a small black gun, according to radio traffic.

Police recovered a loaded gun with an extended magazine during a youth football game in Berkeley on Sunday. Credit: BPD

Officers responded and detained the boy, but he did not have a gun, BPD said. Witnesses directed police to a man in a football jersey who was also seen with a gun. Police arrested the man and recovered a loaded firearm, BPD said.

Police said the crowd was “a little chaotic” when officers arrived to investigate the gun call, which led to the decision to shut down the game.

Steven Jefferson. Credit: BPD

BPD ultimately arrested the 14-year-old boy on suspicion of bringing a gun into a school zone; carrying a loaded gun when you are not its registered owner; and drawing or exhibiting the gun “in a rude, angry, or threatening manner” or using the gun “in any fight or quarrel.” Authorities did not release the boy’s name because he is a minor.

Police arrested the man, identified as 34-year-old Steven Jefferson of Berkeley, on suspicion of bringing a gun into a school zone, carrying a loaded gun without being its registered owner, and having a large-capacity magazine. He was no longer in custody as of publication time.

On Monday, BPD said this was the first time anything like this had come up for the youth football club.

Representatives of the club, the Berkeley Jr Jackets, said they are working to create a positive environment for youth and would like more support for the program from the city. The community organization is independently run and is not affiliated with the city or school district.

Todd Walker, who is on the group’s board, said more than 100 boys and girls, who primarily live in the East Bay, participate in the football and cheer program, which launched four years ago. On its Facebook page, the group describes itself as a sports and mentoring program for youth ages 7-16.

“We are trying our hardest,” Walker told Berkeleyside on Monday. “We got a lot of people out there. We can’t control what they do when we aren’t looking.”

Walker said he was not at the game Sunday but understood what happened to have started as an argument among youth that “got out of hand.” He said city support could result in better security at the games and help the program succeed.

“We need the city to be part of it,” Walker said. “The city should be looking out for us a little bit.”

Walker said Berkeley needs to invest in opportunities for youth if it hopes to stop the cycle of violence that derails too many young lives. He said the time to act is now — not wait until something even more serious happens — and that many of the children who participate in the Berkeley Jr Jackets need that extra support.

“These kids don’t go to afterschool programs. They come to us and we are doing the best we can,” he said. “It takes one incident to smear the whole program. That’s not what the program is designed for.”

Emilie Raguso is Berkeleyside’s senior editor of news. Email: emilie@berkeleyside.org. Twitter: emraguso. Phone: 510-459-8325.