Authorities announced the arrest Wednesday evening of a sex offender on parole alleged to have accosted teenage girls in Berkeley while pretending to be an armed police officer.

Scroll to the bottom of this story for an update

Police credited alert witnesses with providing detailed information, evidence and security footage that led investigators to Christopher Dalton, 32, who was living in an Oakland “Tuff Shed” community cabin homeless camp on Mandela Parkway at the time of his arrest.

One of those witnesses called police Tuesday for the first time after seeing a Berkeleyside story about a suspicious man who had confronted a girl on her way to Berkeley High and demanded a hug. The man had left the area in a red Mustang, police said.

The witness — also a teenage girl — told police the same man may have followed her in August. During the encounter, she had taken a photograph of his license plate. Detectives reviewed that photo and determined that the vehicle, a red Ford Mustang with a rear spoiler and dark-tinted windows, was registered to Dalton.

Christopher Dalton. Credit: Megan’s Law

This wasn’t the first time Dalton had come to the attention of authorities. He had been convicted in 2013, when he was in his 20s, of child molest: committing lewd acts with a child under 14, attempting to commit lewd acts with a 14- or 15-year-old, and contacting a minor with the intent to commit a sex offense, according to the California Megan’s Law sex offender database. Dalton was sent to prison but was released in 2015, required to register as a sex offender and placed on parole.

In 2020, an assessment by authorities put Dalton in the “well above average risk” category — which used to be called “high risk” — for the possibility of reoffense, according to his Megan’s Law entry.

Berkeley police arrested Dalton near his workplace in San Francisco on Wednesday afternoon with the assistance of the Division of Adult Parole Operations and the Alameda County sheriff’s office Sexual Assault Felony Enforcement Task Force. At the time of his arrest, he was wearing a GPS monitor, a requirement of his parole terms as a sex offender, to track his location.

“Detectives are still conducting follow-up investigation,” said Officer Byron White, BPD spokesperson. “One of the things they will be looking at is the activity recorded on the suspect’s GPS monitoring device.”

After the arrest, police searched Dalton’s home “where they located several pieces of clothing that were worn during the commission of these crimes,” BPD said in a prepared statement.

The latest witness report brings the tally of known incidents in Berkeley linked to Dalton up to three.

Police say a man with a red Ford Mustang has accosted several teenage girls in Berkeley. Security footage shows him following at least two of those girls prior to his encounters with him, authorities said. Credit: BPD

On the morning of Aug. 25, a girl was walking on Virginia Street, between McGee Avenue and Sacramento Street, when a stranger followed her and tried to engage her in conversation. He made no threats and did not identify himself as a police officer.

A month later, on Sept. 29, a man wearing an American flag neck gaiter approached a girl walking on Gilman Street, identified himself as a police officer with a gun and demanded a hug. The girl reported that incident to police, who released security footage from the confrontation and asked the public for help to identify the suspicious man.

YouTube video

Most recently, on Monday morning, police say Dalton asked a Berkeley High student if he could walk her to school. He told her he was a police officer and “cornered her” in a secluded spot: “The man told the girl that he wanted her to give him a hug and made a threat about having a knife.”

Detectives arrested Dalton on Wednesday on two felony counts of communicating with a minor with the intent to commit a sex act, one felony count — by a person with a prior offense — of annoying a child, and parole violation.

White, the BPD spokesperson, said Dalton appears to have been escalating and that police are concerned he may have approached more girls.

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

“It’s likely there may be other victims out there who may have interacted with him,” White said. “We hope they will come forward.”

Dalton was on his way to Santa Rita Jail as of publication time so further information about his arrest and upcoming court appearance were not immediately available.

Update, Dec. 9: The Alameda County district attorney’s office charged Dalton with six felonies: three counts each of contacting a minor with the intent to commit a sex crime, and child molesting (in the sense of annoying or disturbing) by someone with a prior violent sex offense. He is scheduled for arraignment Friday at the East County Hall of Justice in Dublin, according to court records online. Dalton, who works as a cook, remains in custody at Santa Rita Jail. No bail amount was listed in his booking record.

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 of the Year...