Police: Student who brought replica gun onto BHS campus arrested after large fight downtown

The BB gun had a “steel slide and polymer frame” and “all the visible markings of a real handgun,” police said.

Officers initially thought this BB gun was an actual firearm due to its “steel slide and polymer frame” and because it had “all the visible markings of a real handgun.” Credit: BPD

Police arrested a 15-year-old Berkeley Unified student who brought a realistic-looking BB gun onto the Berkeley High campus after threatening other students with the weapon during a fight downtown Wednesday morning, authorities report.

Police initially responded shortly before noon Wednesday to a report of a large fight downtown, one block from campus at Allston Way and Harold Way, involving 50-100 BHS students, BPD told Berkeleyside. When officers arrived, they found 50-60 students still fighting near Shattuck Avenue and Allston Way. Police were able to speak to witnesses who said “two of the students had threatened others with a handgun.”

As part of their investigation, BPD contacted Berkeley High staff and consulted with the school resource officer — a BPD officer assigned to campus — who was able to identify the students who reportedly had the gun, BPD said.

At about 12:30 p.m., BPD said, BHS staff informed BPD that the students who had used the gun “were now on campus,” BPD said. Officers attempted to contact the pair, BPD said, but they “ran into the C-Building and then back out of the building toward Milvia Street and Kittredge Street. Officers were able to eventually detain both students in the area of Shattuck Avenue and Allston Way.”

Officers then searched both students and found a BB gun in one of their backpacks, BPD said: “On first glance, officers thought the weapon was an actual firearm” due to its steel slide and polymer frame, and because it had “all the visible markings of a real handgun (make, model, serial number, weight, etc).”

The student with the BB gun, a 15-year-old boy from Berkeley, was arrested on suspicion of brandishing a replica firearm and having a weapon on campus, BPD said.

In an email to the campus community Wednesday evening, BHS Principal Juan Raygoza described what happened as a “serious incident” on campus.

“Near the end of lunch time,” Raygoza wrote, “I was notified of a non-BHS student who is now enrolled in Berkeley Independent Studies (BIS) potentially having a weapon. I immediately notified all administrators and alerted School Resource Officer (SRO) Geoff Mitchell who was already on campus. Although witnesses who suspected this individual might have a weapon did not indicate that they had seen a gun drawn at any time, any weapon in the possession of any person on our campus (outside of our SRO) is a threat to the safety and well-being of our school community.”

Raygoza said school staff immediately found the non-BHS student, “who was attempting to leave campus. As the student was leaving campus, Officer Mitchell and two other officers followed the individual into downtown Berkeley where they eventually found the non-BHS student to be in possession of a BB gun.”

In his email, which went out in English and Spanish to students, staff and parents, Raygoza said BHS is now working with police and Berkeley Independent Study administrators as the investigation continues.

“I want to thank the individuals who reported that they suspected someone on our campus might have a weapon,” Raygoza wrote. “They did the right thing as members of our school community. The safety of our students and staff is our top priority.”

Officer Byron White, BPD spokesperson, said the boy with the BB gun was taken to Alameda County Juvenile Hall in San Leandro. His name was not released because he is a minor. The other individual was released at the scene because he did not have a weapon, White said.

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