Aaron Maldonado. Credit: BPD

A UC Berkeley student who was dropped from the Cal football team has been charged with felony assault after a series of attacks on strangers in the Elmwood last week, according to court papers.

Police say 22-year-old Aaron Maldonado shattered a car window with his bare hands, then punched two men and a woman last week, sending one of the men to the hospital.

Maldonado, who is from the Los Angeles area but had moved to Berkeley for school, began at Cal in 2018. But he struggled due to medical issues including injuries, according to news reports.

“He showed promise in his first two seasons with 13 tackles and 3.5 sacks. He was a 3-Star recruit for Cal in the 2018 class out of La Puente (Calif.) Bishop Amat High School,” 247 Sports reported in April. But Maldonado then missed all of the 2020 football season and nearly all of 2021 due to injury, according to the sports news outlet.

In April, his coach told 247 Sports that Maldonado would “no longer be with the team” but would finish school at Cal. He said the young man had had “some tough issues” medically and “had a number of injuries throughout his career.”

Maldonado stands 6 foot 3 and weighs 280 pounds, according to the 2021 Cal football roster, where he is still listed. He is majoring in sociology.

A witness to one of last week’s Elmwood attacks described the assailant to Berkeleyside as “gigantic, and out of his mind.” The witness told Berkeleyside that “people tried to intervene but he is really enormous.”

Despite Maldonado’s size, one bystander did succeed in pushing him off of a 65-year-old man he had knocked to the ground and was choking with both hands, according to court papers.

Police were called to the Elmwood neighborhood at about 1:20 p.m. June 6 after Maldonado shattered the window of a woman’s Prius then walked up to a 54-year-old mother and her two young children who were near Gordo Taqueria, at 2989 College Ave. (near Ashby Avenue), according to BPD.

According to court papers, Maldonado “yelled unintelligible words at her” then “hit her face and head causing her to fall on her knees.”

He then walked inside Gordo, saw a man who was in line to order food and punched him several times in the face, according to court papers.

A few doors away, police wrote, Maldonado “continued his violent rage” inside Manpuku, at 2977 College.

There, Maldonado confronted a 65-year-old man who was waiting to order food and asked him repeatedly if he was “Kevin,” police wrote in charging documents. The man said he was not “Kevin” and turned away.

According to police, Maldonado then reached around the man’s neck from behind and put him into a chokehold before punching him repeatedly. The patron fought back and was able to break away and run outside.

But Maldonado — who was shirtless — chased after him and pushed him down, causing the man’s head to hit the ground, police wrote. Maldonado choked the man until the bystander pushed him away, according to police.

BPD sent Maldonado for a psychiatric evaluation. On Friday, police took him to Santa Rita Jail for booking, according to court papers.

On the way to jail, police wrote, Maldonado “kicked the door/window of the police vehicle and shoulder checked a BPD Officer, all while yelling and screaming.”

On Monday, the Alameda County district attorney’s office charged Maldonado with felony assault with force likely to produce great bodily injury, two counts of misdmeanor battery and one count of misdemeanor vandalism, according to charging papers.

Maldonado is scheduled for arraignment Tuesday at Wiley W. Manuel Courthouse in Oakland, according to court records online. No bail amount is listed.

Featured photo credit: Kelly Sullivan

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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...