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Fugitive caught by Berkeley cops

By Michelle Durand, Daily Journal Staff
Saturday July 13, 2002

Parole violator wanted for kidnapping, maybe burglary and murder 


After eluding authorities for nearly a month, Kenneth Earl Watson — the San Mateo man who inspired a task force devoted solely to his felony crime spree — was caught in Berkeley Friday after an acquaintance turned him in. 

Watson, 31, is facing charges for a range of crimes throughout San Mateo County including the kidnapping of his ex-wife and is wanted for questioning in the murder of an acquaintance in Millbrae earlier this week.  

Berkeley police arrested Watson at 2:30 p.m. at the 2900 block of Sacramento Street near Ashby Avenue after being tipped off by a friend of Watson’s. 

"He contacted a citizen there in hopes of getting refuge and that person contacted the police who in turn contacted the Kenneth Watson Task Force," said San Mateo County Sheriff’s spokeswoman Bronwyn Hogan. 

Police surrounded the area and Watson was arrested without incident, Hogan said. 

Berkeley police assembled their SWAT team and hostage negotiators but neither was necessary. Three officers saw Watson walking alone and quickly subdued him. Watson was unarmed, police said. 

"He tried to run but he didn’t get too far,” said Lt. Ed McBride of the Berkeley Police Department. 

Watson made no statements but did admit his identity to arresting officers. Hogan said she could not disclose the relationship between Watson and the person who turned him in.  

Watson briefly attended UC Berkeley on a scholarship in 1989 before dropping out. 

Although Watson was arrested in Alameda County he waived his rights to appear in court there and sheriff’s deputies brought him back to San Mateo County last night. He was booked on charges of kidnapping and parole violation. 

"There are a lot of agencies that want to talk to him about a lot of different crimes," Hogan said. 

Authorities have wanted Watson since he kidnapped his ex-wife at gunpoint from an exclusive Woodside neighborhood on June 17. The victim, 30-year-old Nancy Brayer, was passed from friend to friend until one released her unharmed later that night. 

Since then, Watson has been sighted numerous times throughout the county but has continued to elude capture. On July 4 he broke into a Belmont home and robbed the residents before fleeing. 

A task force of 10 different law enforcement agencies was formed this week to find Watson after Redwood City resident Damon Anthony Whitney, 25, was shot and killed in Millbrae on Wednesday. Police believe Watson may be connected to the shooting. 

Whitney was shot in the head shortly after midnight while sitting in his truck. He died later that afternoon. Meanwhile, the Cipriani neighborhood in Belmont was cordoned off for hours by SWAT team members on a manhunt for Watson after police received a tip he was in the area. 

A tan Ford Explorer found abandoned on state Route 92 in Belmont after the shooting has now been linked to the crime by evidence found within the vehicle, according to Millbrae police. They refused to disclose specifics of the evidence or the name of the owner. 

Millbrae police also say that in interviews with Whitney’s friends, Watson’s name was mentioned although they have not said what the relationship was between the two. 

Authorities believe associates of Watson helped him avoid capture for so long, although Hogan said some were beginning to cooperate earlier this week. One even provided a recent photograph of Watson to the task force.  

Hogan said the task force was the first in recent memory to be devoted to one person rather than a crime, such as narcotics or vehicle theft. 

The U.S. Marshal’s Service issued a $1 million arrest warrant for Watson following the kidnapping. He was also wanted on a no-bail warrant stemming from his parole violation. Watson was previously convicted of battery, false imprisonment, spousal abuse and evading police.