Update, Sept. 21, 9 a.m. Police arrested a Berkeley woman and her adult son early Tuesday morning after an all-night operation on Ninth Street that began with the sound of gunfire late Monday night, authorities report.
As the hours wore on, Berkeley police called in drones from the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office, a dog from the Oakland Police Department and BPD’s own Special Response Team — what other agencies call SWAT — to serve a search warrant in the 1700 block of Ninth Street that ultimately led to the recovery of a loaded, unregistered gun and the arrest of 35-year-old Oscar Areas and his mother, 59-year-old Dameris Alcala, on suspicion of numerous gun-related felonies, police said.
“I did it, I shot the gun off in the air,” Alcala told responding officers when they arrived at the family home on Ninth Street, between Virginia and Delaware streets, according to BPD. Alcala was adamant that she had fired the gun, police said, but officers found her story inconsistent and missing details.
Police said they ultimately concluded that Alcala had hidden the gun and taken responsibility for the shooting so her son would not go to jail. According to BPD, both Alcala and Areas are convicted felons, and Areas has “multiple arrests” related to firearms and ammunition.
In the end, police arrested both mother and son on suspicion of firing a gun with gross negligence and other gun-related violations. BPD said officers also found a methamphetamine pipe and residue during their search of the family home and arrested residents Alcala and Areas on suspicion of possessing a controlled substance while armed, which is a felony.
Alcala is being held on $282,500 bail and Areas on $262,500 bail, according to booking records online. They remained at Berkeley Jail as of publication time and were scheduled for arraignment Thursday at the East County Hall of Justice in Dublin.
A family member on Ninth Street who identified herself as a nurse criticized Tuesday’s operation and said police had not handled the family’s report of a home-invasion robbery in July — where an intruder had fired a gun — with as much intensity as they brought this week. The July case remains unsolved, she said.
“The justice system is so backwards,” she told Berkeleyside in frustration. She said, even as of 6 a.m., no one had explained to the family what the police response was about. She said multiple people who live in the home were essential workers who needed to be at work Tuesday morning.
The initial report from a witness, according to BPD, was that someone had fired a gun into the air outside 1722 Ninth at about 10:20 p.m., then walked back into the house. When officers arrived, they found spent casings in the front yard, said Officer Byron White, BPD spokesperson.
Police used a loudspeaker to order people inside the home — who ultimately numbered 10 — to come outside and surrender. Police handcuffed some of the individuals, while others simply waited with them in the street. Some were barefoot or without jackets despite the chilly weather. One woman, reportedly eight months pregnant, and a 3-year-old child agreed to wait in the warmth of a police car, while the rest stayed outside watching the operation.
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It took until nearly 2 a.m. for everyone to leave the house, but it would still be hours before that was confirmed and the situation had resolved.
Once residents were outside, BPD’s Special Response Team (SRT) members began arriving on Ninth Street to serve a search warrant at the family home in connection with the investigation. By the time officers were in place, there were dozens of police vehicles parked outside the home and on Virginia Street just north of it.
Before SRT went inside between 5 and 6 a.m., police spent several hours ordering anyone who might have remained in the house to come out. They used one drone to monitor the outside of the property and sent a smaller drone inside the house. They also set off several flashbang grenades and, from the sound of it, shattered glass to access the property.
“That’s not cool, man!” one of the residents shouted at police when the sound of glass breaking reached those waiting in the street.
Most of the detained residents waited patiently for hours but there was also some level of frustration expressed by some at the slow pace of the investigation. They repeatedly told police at 2 a.m. that no one else was inside the home — aside from two dogs and some cats — but police continued to order anyone inside to come out.
White said BPD uses a methodical approach “to make sure everyone is safe.”
The regular loudspeaker announcements were interrupted periodically by the sound of blaring train horns passing to the west. Some of the flashbang grenades also set off a car alarm, but the owner silenced it relatively quickly.
Berkeley police called in drones and a dog from other agencies because they do not have either option themselves due to longstanding City Council policy. Under city rules, BPD is able to ask other agencies for help if there are exigent circumstances. The city manager must approve those requests, which is what happened Tuesday, BPD said.
Original story: Berkeley police have shut down traffic near Ninth and Delaware streets following gunfire Monday night, according to preliminary reports.
There has been a separate report of gunfire that damaged a vehicle in the 2700 block of Mathews Street, south of Ward Street. Police are investigating both incidents.
A Berkeleyside reader on Twitter heard “a bunch” of gunshots in the area of San Pablo Park just before 10:25 p.m. “It was strangely quiet,” another reader said, “no cars squealing away or police.”
Berkeleyside has asked BPD for confirmation and more details.
As of 10:40 p.m., police were shutting down north- and southbound traffic on Ninth Street following at least one witness report that a person had walked outside and shot into the air before going back into a residence, according to the discussion over the scanner.
A dispatcher identified the possible shooter as a “known violent offender.”
Police said they did not want pedestrian or vehicle traffic in the area. Ninth Street is also blocked at Virginia Street.
As of about 11:20 p.m., police had brought in an armored van and were using a loudspeaker in an effort to make contact with the shooter, a sergeant said over the radio.
There have been at least 30 other shootings in Berkeley this year, which is up from the number reported as of this time in 2020.
On July 22, police investigated a report of gunfire during a robbery in the 1700 block of Ninth, the same area as Monday’s report.
About a third of this year’s shootings have taken place within about a half-mile of Monday’s gunfire.
Editor’s Note: Berkeleyside updated this story as additional information became available.