Some 1,200 revelers from an overcrowded fraternity party on campus spilled onto Telegraph Avenue early Sunday morning, some of them smashing windows, looting shops and robbing pedestrians, police said.
Four people were arrested for possession of stolen property, all of whom are juveniles. One of the arrested teens was from San Pablo, while the three others were from Oakland, said Lt. Russell Lopes of the Berkeley Police.
A well-advertised post-game party hosted by the Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity at the university’s Pauley Ballroom was shut down by UC Berkeley Police after an estimated 600 people poured inside, leaving hundreds more outside in wait, Lopes said.
When someone inside the ballroom pulled the fire alarm, the partygoers stormed outside and flooded Sproul Plaza.
“There was an estimated 1,200 people outside the ballroom at about 12:30 p.m.,” Lopes said. “Fights broke out and people were forced on the sidewalks.”
Captain Bill Cooper of the UC Berkeley Police said that the fraternity members throwing the party were trying to keep things calm, and were attempting to only let in those who were students or invited guests.
“They were equally surprised,” he said. “There was a large group that arrived for the party that they hadn’t anticipated, and we hadn’t anticipated.”
No one answered the phone at the Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity house on Monday.
Cooper said that the UC police assigned one sergeant, two officers and two community service officers to the party.
“There was a normal amount of planning, and we anticipated a normal event,” he said.
Cooper said that a patrol of about 12 UC police officers were held over after their regular shifts and arrived at the scene.
“We were going to slowly let them disperse,” he said.
Lopes said that about 9 p.m., two Berkeley police bicycle officers noticed a large crowd gathering and alerted the duty officers. About midnight, he said, a patrol commander and a sergeant happened upon the plaza filled with people and began to observe the scene.
“And it just went to hell in front of them,” he said.
Someone fired a gun and panicked the crowd, which then ran in various directions, he said.
Lopes said when the crowd hit Telegraph Avenue, chaos ensued. People were jumping on top of cars, and robbing people in their cars, windows of businesses were bashed out and a looting spree erupted, he said.
Around two dozen city officers, along with the 17 UC police officers, finally stopped the crowd from moving down Telegraph beyond Durant Avenue.
“We just tried to keep them in one area,” Lopes said.
Both Lopes and Cooper said that it all happened very quickly.
Lopes said that if they would have assembled all of the officers on duty at Sproul when the bicycle police noticed the growing mass, “it probably wouldn’t have made any difference.”
Lopes explained that on a given Saturday night, there are only about 18 or 20 police on duty in the entire city.
He said that having five members of the UC force do security for the party was “really inadequate.”
“But they could have had a dozen people down there and it wouldn’t have made a difference,” he said.
Both Lopes and Cooper said that the individuals that did the damage were most likely not Berkeley students, or for that matter, were not even from Berkeley.
“These are the people that come into Berkeley and start trouble,” Lopes said.
He added that the party was well publicized as a “Cal vs. UCLA after-party,” and that UC police did not inform Berkeley police that the event was happening. The only way the city police knew about the party was by seeing the people in the plaza.
Lopes said he believed that gang members may have been involved. Most the looters got away, he said, adding that one man was stopped by the Oakland Police at 61st Street and Shattuck Ave. in Oakland with an armload of loot from the Athlete’s Foot.
He said that the Oakland police weren’t able to take him to jail, nor were the Berkeley police able to come get him, so he wasn’t arrested, but the merchandise was confiscated.
Lopes said because of the small number of officers available, there were few arrests.
“We just told them to drop the merchandise, and they did,” he said.
The four who were arrested were “stupid enough to come back and try to get stuff that they stashed,” he said.