Crime roundup: Crowbar attack, REI bike robbery, hate crime charges

Arrested or charged individuals are presumed innocent.


A roundup of some of the most serious crimes in Berkeley over the past few weeks appears below. Send tips to Berkeleyside with your public safety questions. Arrested or charged individuals are presumed innocent.

Juan Smith. Credit: BPD

CROWBAR ASSAULT A man has been charged with robbery and assault with a deadly weapon after using a crowbar to attack a local resident in his 60s in late January, according to police. The resident was near Bancroft Way and Fourth Street on Jan. 27 just before 8:30 p.m. when he heard the sound of windows being smashed. He looked closer and “found several cars with their windows smashed,” according to BPD. He also spotted an RV on fire. A man — later identified as 31-year-old Juan Smith (no address) — was standing on its roof.

The resident called 911 to report what he saw. But, as he made the call, according to BPD, Smith ran toward him, holding a crowbar. The resident tried to run away but fell down, police said. Smith then used the crowbar to strike him four times in the head while yelling, “I’ll kill you!” according to court papers. Smith then took the man’s cellphone and left, according to BPD. The attack was caught on security video.

The victim, who lost consciousness during the attack, was taken to Highland Hospital with significant injuries to his head, arm and leg, according to court papers. BPD was able to get a description of the assailant and arrested Smith in the area after he tried to run from officers. BPD said officers found the stolen cellphone in Smith’s pocket and located the crowbar along his flight path. Smith is being held on $185,000 bail at Santa Rita Jail and is scheduled for a plea hearing Tuesday.

Matthew McClure. Credit: ACSO

BATTERY CHARGE AFTER CAMPUS ATTACKS A man described by authorities as a transient from Berkeley has been charged with several misdemeanors following reports of three unprovoked attacks on the UC Berkeley campus within 24 hours in January. On Jan. 18, at 4:40 p.m., UCPD got a report of an aggravated assault near the Haas School of Business: “The victim reported being shoved in an unprovoked attack, causing injuries. Officers responded to render aid to the victim and conducted an area check but were unable to locate the suspect at the time.”

While there, UCPD was advised of a battery that had happened just two minutes before the Haas report. In that earlier incident, “the suspect had pushed a second victim in an unprovoked attack,” according to a prepared statement from UCPD. Officers later also learned of a battery case the prior evening, near Lewis Hall, with a similar description.

As part of its investigation, UCPD sent out a campus alert Jan. 18 asking the community to look out for the assailant and help identify him. Several tips quickly came in, “including one from a community member who recognized the suspect and called UCPD. Thanks to the vigilance of the community, Officers located the alleged suspect near Lewis Hall on campus,” UCPD said.

Authorities identified the man who was responsible as 36-year-old Matthew McClure and arrested him shortly before 9 p.m. Jan. 18. On Jan. 24, the Alameda County district attorney’s office charged McClure with battery, resisting/obstructing a peace officer and unlawful lodging. McClure remains in custody at Santa Rita Jail with a bail of $15,000, according to court records online. He is scheduled for a pretrial hearing Wednesday. UCPD asks anyone with additional information about the case to call the department at 510-642-6760.

Julian Lee. Credit: BPD

BIKE SHOP ROBBERIES A man is in custody this week facing robbery and attempted robbery charges after threatening staff at two Berkeley businesses and taking a high-end bicycle from one of them, according to police and court papers. On Jan. 18, BPD said, 32-year-old Julian Lee (no address) went into REI on San Pablo Avenue and took a $3,800 Cannondale bicycle from the store. According to police, Lee elbowed a staffer who tried to stop him, told her he had a gun, then fled from the area, riding away on the bike. An REI security worker told police Lee had also been linked to thefts from other Bay Area REI stores, according to court papers.

BPD arrested Lee on Jan. 27, several hours after he tried to steal a $3,200 bike from Berkeley’s Trek Bicycles on Shattuck Avenue, according to court papers. During that interaction, police wrote, Lee had pulled the bike away from a store employee but staff managed to wrestle it back from him. Lee fled the store while threatening to shoot the employees, who told police they never saw a gun, BPD said.

This week, the DA’s office charged Lee with robbery, attempted robbery and threatening witnesses. He remains in custody at Santa Rita Jail and is scheduled for a pretrial hearing Feb. 28 at Wiley Manuel Courthouse in Oakland. Lee’s bail is listed as $1,500, according to court records online. Lee has one prior conviction, for burglary in San Mateo County in 2019, according to court papers.

Xavier Smith-Wilson. Credit: BPD

HATE CRIME CHARGES A man has been charged with two hate crimes, including one felony count, in connection with an incident at Grove Park, at 1730 Oregon St., on Jan. 31. According to court papers, 24-year-old Xavier Smith-Wilson (no address) “made several threats” as well as “several racial comments and slurs” to a 17-year-old from Serbia that day, telling him to go “back to your country” and that he did not belong in the United States. According to police, Smith-Wilson also struck the teenager in the head and shoulder with a baseball bat.

When a man intervened, according to court papers, Smith-Wilson told the pair he had a bomb and, pointing at the teenager, said, “I’ve got a gun for you.” When police arrested Smith-Wilson, he continued to defend his earlier statements, according to court documents. On Tuesday, the DA’s office charged Smith-Wilson — in connection with the juvenile — with felony criminal threats, including several hate crime allegations, as well as violation of civil rights, a separate hate crime allegation. Smith-Wilson also was charged with making felony threats against the adult who intervened. A hate crime is defined as any crime against a person, group or property motivated by the victim’s real or perceived protected social group.

Smith-Wilson remains in custody at Santa Rita Jail with a bail of $120,000, according to court records online. He is scheduled for a plea hearing Feb. 18 at East County Hall of Justice in Dublin.

Nathaniel Johnson. Credit: BPD

FELONY “ASSAULT WITH CAUSTIC CHEMICALS” A man who sprayed a CVS security guard with Raid and threw a wine bottle at him during a disturbance in the store is now facing robbery and felony assault charges, according to court papers. Police say 46-year-old Nathaniel Johnson (no address) had gone into CVS at 1451 Shattuck Ave. on Jan. 24, then began “breaking and throwing makeup.”

Johnson left and store staff alerted police, also advising BPD that Johnson had come in earlier that month, Jan. 16, and become upset when he was confronted about prior shoplifting incidents. On Jan. 16, when staff asked Johnson to leave, he “threw down a wine bottle on the floor in front of the victim” then “sprayed the victim in the face from 10 feet away with a can of Raid aerosol spray. Johnson grabbed a Gatorade bottle from the cooler and left in possession of the Raid and Gatorade,” according to court papers. Police were able to locate Johnson on Jan. 24 and arrested him. On Jan. 26, the DA’s office charged him with robbery as well as assault with caustic chemicals. Both are felonies.

Johnson remains in custody with a bail of $100,000 and has also been charged with several other petty theft cases, according to court records online. He is scheduled for a plea hearing Thursday at East County.

Featured photo credit: Kelly Sullivan

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