School staff told police a suspicious man had been circling Silvia Mendez Elementary School in his car since October. Credit: Natalie Orenstein
Anthony Orosco. Credit: BPD

Berkeley police arrested a school district custodian Wednesday on suspicion of both lewd conduct and annoying children following reports that he had circled Sylvia Mendez Elementary School in his vehicle at least 10 times since October, officials say.

Police say the man, 61-year-old Anthony Orosco of Richmond, had “several items of concern” in his car, a black 2007 Lexus LS 460, when he was arrested, including a hunting-style knife, gloves, duct tape and a bundle of zip ties. School staff didn’t recognize the man in the Lexus and he wasn’t identified as a Berkeley Unified School District employee until after his arrest.

But Wednesday was not the first time Orosco’s presence at Sylvia Mendez Elementary School had raised concerns: Staff have called police about him more than once, said BPD spokesperson Officer Byron White, including Jan. 13 when they believed he was masturbating in the Lexus outside the school. School staff noticed the man outside multiple times, White said, but he would drive away when they approached him.

Orosco is employed by the Berkeley Unified School District as a custodian at Rosa Parks Elementary School, BUSD Superintendent Brent Stephens wrote in an announcement to the community Thursday morning. Orosco previously worked as a custodian at Sylvia Mendez and has been a substitute at multiple Berkeley schools this year. He has been employed by the district since Oct. 2018.

Orosco was immediately placed on leave as a result of his arrest, Stephens wrote in the announcement. The notice, described as an “important safety message,” was posted in English and Spanish on the district website and distributed via email.

“He will not be working at any BUSD site pending the findings of this investigation and will be prohibited from all BUSD facilities during this period,” Stephens wrote. “School staff has been asked to report this vehicle to their principal and the police if it is seen near any BUSD school.”

BPD bike patrol officers arrested Orosco on Wednesday at 3:55 p.m. outside Sylvia Mendez Elementary School, at 2840 Ellsworth St. (at Oregon Street), White said.

Staff had called police Wednesday afternoon when they saw the Lexus circling the school yet again, according to BPD. When officers arrived, they found Orosco parked on Oregon Street and arrested him.

BPD asks anyone with information that could relate to the case to call the Youth Services Unit at 510-981-5715

Orosco was released from Berkeley Jail just after 4:50 a.m. Thursday after posting a bond for bail that had been set at $105,000, White told Berkeleyside. Orosco’s initial court date — where he would be advised of the charges against him — is slated to take place in April, White said.

“I want to assure you that the safety of our students is a top priority for the district,” Stephens wrote in the community letter.

Orosco is the second man linked to Berkeley schools who has been arrested in connection with inappropriate sexual behavior in the last week.

On Feb. 10, a man who worked in the after-school program at King Middle School was arrested in connection with a child pornography investigation by the Contra Costa County Sheriff’s Office. The district does not believe any school children were victims in the case.

Ally Markovich, who covers the school beat for Berkeleyside, is a former high school English teacher. Her work has appeared in The Oaklandside, The New York Times, Huffington Post and Washington Post,...