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A man wearing an American flag neck gaiter accosted a teenage girl walking on Gilman Street in northwest Berkeley last week, identified himself as a police officer with a gun and demanded a hug, authorities announced Thursday.

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The man blocked the girl’s path when she tried to leave, but she was able to run to a place of safety and call police, the Berkeley Police Department said Thursday. Now, authorities have asked for the community’s help to identify the man.

The man was described as white, in his 30s, about 5 feet 8 to 6 feet tall with an athletic build and short hair. He wore a black baseball cap, a dark short-sleeved shirt (“possibly a gray polo shirt with a light logo on the left side”), cargo pants and the American flag neck gaiter, which he had used as a face covering.

Police said the girl, a Berkeley resident, was walking home Sept. 29 just before 6:25 p.m. in the 1300 block of Gilman Street when “a suspicious man” started to follow her.

“The man told the girl that he was a police officer and that he had a gun,” BPD said in a prepared statement. “The man demanded a hug. When the girl refused and kept walking, the man followed after her and again told her he was a police officer, had a gun and that she needed to listen to him.”

That’s when he stepped in front of the girl and blocked her path, BPD said. She was able to run away and call for help.

The man ran from the area after the girl left, police said.

The incident happened in the area of Gilman, Acton and Hopkins streets, and police are asking residents to check their security cameras for clues. Police asked community members, in particular, to review their camera footage from Sept. 29 between 6:15 and 6:45 p.m.

BPD asks anyone with information about the case to call the Sex Crimes Unit at 510-981-5735.

Update, Dec. 7: Police believe the same man has struck again, this time at McGee Avenue and Channing Way.

Emilie Raguso (former senior editor, news) joined Berkeleyside in 2012 and covered politics, public safety and development until her departure in 2022. In 2017, Emilie was named Journalist...