Police Find Shooting Suspect in South Berkeley Dumpster

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Thursday June 04, 2009 - 06:58:00 AM
The Berkeley Police Department SWAT team searches for an armed suspect near the corner of Shattuck and Ashby avenues.
Mikell Haynes
The Berkeley Police Department SWAT team searches for an armed suspect near the corner of Shattuck and Ashby avenues.

After a high-speed car chase and a lengthy search Tuesday afternoon, police found the man suspected of firing shots from a vehicle in West Berkeley earlier that day. 

Berkeley police found the shooter hiding in a dumpster in the backyard of an Ashby Avenue apartment building at 6:02 p.m., three hours after the incident that sparked the manhunt.  

Officers from the Berkeley Police Department cordoned off a two-block square perimeter—including Shattuck Avenue, Ashby Avenue, Russell and Fulton streets—around 3:30 p.m. to look for a suspect, who was seen firing a gun from a moving car by a Berkeley police patrol officer 15 minutes earlier.  

Police spokesperson Mary Kus-miss said the officer “saw and heard gunfire and an arm out of the window” of a white Infiniti sedan at Eighth Street and Bancroft Way. The officer pursued the suspect through west and central Berkeley and finally onto southbound Shattuck Ave-nue, heading toward Ashby Avenue. 

“It’s rare for an officer to witness someone shooting, at least in Berkeley,” she said.  

At least 10 police cars with sirens roaring could be seen chasing the suspect’s car down Shattuck Avenue, some of them coming to a halt in front of Roxie Deli at the corner of Shattuck and Ashby avenues.  

The suspect’s car was slowed by heavy traffic on southbound Shattuck as it approached Ashby, and it collided with a parked, unoccupied car in the 2900 block of Shattuck Avenue, Kusmiss said.  

At that point, the suspect leapt out of the car and ran southbound on Shattuck, then east on Ashby. Berkeley police closed Shattuck between Ashby and Russell and started diverting traffic and pedestrians. They were helped in their search by the Berkeley Police Department SWAT team, which was training nearby, and an Oakland Police Department canine unit.  

The police action caused a stir in the neighborhood; people came out of their apartments to watch the action, some taking pictures with cell phones. 

Kumiss said police had blocked off a larger area than required as a precaution. “We are just going through a systematic search,” she said. “The response was very quick because of the serious nature of the call. We were able to seal the block very quickly.”  

As the search went on, Kusmiss said there was a high possibility the suspect was still armed. She said the police were advising residents to stay inside their homes and notify police if they saw anyone resembling the suspect. Some neighbors received robo calls from police informing them of the situation. 

Kusmiss said officers had found a parked car at Eighth and Bancroft around 4 p.m., a green Mercury Tracer, with bullet holes on the back bumper and two flat tires, but had not located any victims. Calls to hospitals by Berkeley police did not lead to any information either.  

Two hours later, SWAT team members found the suspect hiding in a dumpster in the rear yard of an apartment on the 2100 block of Ashby. He did not have a gun on him and cooperated with the police after being discovered, Berkeley police spokesperson Officer Andrew Frankel said. Frankel said police were not releasing the suspect’s name or any other information about him at this point. 

Berkeley Unified School District spokesperson Mark Coplan said that West Berkeley’s Rosa Parks Elementary School and South Berkeley’s LeConte Elementary were locked down at 3:15 because of the shooting. Rosa Parks was reopened around 4:30, and LeConte right after news of the arrest became public. 

Kusmiss discounted earlier reports of eyewitnesses who said the suspect had fired on police officers after crashing his car on Shattuck Avenue.  

The Berkeley Police Department is asking for the community’s help with this investigation. Anyone who may have information regarding the crime is urged to call the Berkeley Homicide Detail at 981-5741 (office) or 981-5900 (non-emergency dispatch line). Callers who wish to remain anonymous can call the Bay Area Crime Stoppers Tip Line at 1-800-222-TIPS (8477).