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Armed Standoff Ends Peaceably, Neighbors Praise Berkeley Police

Tuesday August 12, 2003

A standoff between police officials and an armed suspect ended peacefully Monday after 24 hours of negotiations. 

Anthony Wade Arrington Jr., a 23-year-old Fremont resident, surrendered to the Berkeley Police Department’s (BPD) Barricaded Subject Hostage Negotiation Team (BSHNT) shortly before 12:30 p.m. on Monday, 24 hours after barricading himself inside a West Berkeley apartment with a firearm. 

Arrington walked out of the apartment unarmed and was handcuffed and led to a waiting police car without incident, said BPD public information officer Kevin Schofield. The standoff began at 11:54 a.m. Sunday when a resident of a building on the 1900 block of 10th Street called police to report sighting a man with a gun. 

BPD officers responding to the call were forced to dive for cover after a shot was fired from the doorway of the apartment building. One police officer sustained a mild head injury from a piece of shrapnel, but did not require medical attention. 

Meanwhile, Arrington had run back inside the building and locked himself in the apartment, refusing to surrender. BSHNT officials arrived at the scene within an hour. 

Neighbors said that the apartment where Arrington staged the standoff belongs to his girlfriend, who had reportedly been in the building before Arrington fired his first shot. Christine Davis, who lives directly beneath that apartment, said that Arrington and his girlfriend had been in the building together and that she had heard arguing from above. 

“I had been on the phone with (Arrington’s) girlfriend just an hour before I heard the shot,” she said. “She didn’t say anything was wrong, and then an hour later I heard arguing, but nothing serious—just an intense discussion. Then we heard the shot. I’m not sure what happened.” 

Davis said that after the first shot, Arrington called her on the phone and said “Chris, get out of the house, take all the kids and get out of the house.” Then he said “I love you.” Davis said that police later took another family in the building, a grandmother and some kids, out on a ladder. 

Davis said that Arrington had temporarily pulled his gun away from the window in order to allow her to escort her children out of the building. 

When it became clear that the standoff would last much of the night, BPD officials made arrangements for the Davises and other area families to stay in local hotels.  

“We were just sitting around until about 11:00,” Davis said. “Then they made arrangements for us to have a place to sleep. In the morning we came back and have just been sitting around waiting.” 

Police cordoned off the area between Ninth and Tenth and Hearst and University for the twenty four hours that the siege lasted, leaving many residents stranded. Attorney Bart Selden, who lives within the area, wasn’t allowed to drive his car out until morning. Ellen Gailing, a Richmond photographer, left her terrier Pepper in her car for ten minutes while she made a quick stop at Amsterdam Art when the shooting started, leaving Pepper marooned in the car until she finally got a veterinarian from Pet Emergencies on University to talk police into rescuing the stranded dog eight hours later. 

Schofield said that the police department’s hostage negotiation team, including mental health specialists, worked through the night to continue communication with Arrington, a process that he said Arrington was willing to participate in. Berkeley Police Negotiator Team Leader Rob Westerhoff led police talks with Arrington, and Westerhoff himself escorted the suspect to a police car after he surrendered. 

“He kept the lines of communication open with us the entire time,” Schofield said. “We knew that we would be able to convince him to come out peacefully at some point because as long as he was willing to talk to us, we were willing to talk to him.” 

Arrington was also speaking with his parents during most of the night from a cell phone in the apartment. His mother, Stephanie Braveboy of Richmond, said came to the area with several other family members and friends to try to reach him after her son called on her cell phone. 

His father, Anthony Arrington Sr., said that he had spoken with his son “five or six times” during the night. The elder Arrington also made a televised plea Sunday night for his son to throw the gun out the window of the apartment building and surrender. 

“He told me that he would give himself up if I escorted him out of the building,” Arrington Sr. said. “I just don’t know why it took so long for that process to happen.” 

Arrington Sr. described his son as a “kind and loving” person who generally stayed out of trouble with the police. “I was worried about him more than anything,” the elder Arrington said. “It was hard not knowing what he was going through to make this happen. I still don’t know what was going on with him.” 

Neighbors expressed similar sentiments about the younger Arrington, who Davis said had been dating her upstairs neighbor, for over a year. Most described him as a quiet person who participated in neighborhood life and took a special liking to area children. 

“He gave my son a Playstation a few months back,” Davis said. “They played together a lot. Something serious must have happened, because he’s not generally like this. Hopefully this can be fixed.” 

Police officers searched the apartment, where they seized a handgun. Upon his surrender, Arrington was taken to the Berkeley City Jail, where he was charged with assault with a firearm, felony possession of a handgun, firing a weapon into an inhabited dwelling, and a probation violation. 

Davis, an Administration of Justice student at Contra Costa College, said she was very impressed with the way the Berkeley Police handled the confrontation. “They did everything right according to the book,” she said. Her fiancé, Denmore Rice, commended police for “a remarkable job.” He and Davis plan to send a letter praising Officer John Nutterfield for his sensitive handling of the evacuation. 

Neighbor Jesus Avila, who said he’s lived at Finn Hall on Tenth Street with his four children for 14 years without seeing any previous violence, commented that the police “had the opportunity to take him down, and they didn’t do it.” He said that “in Oakland or San Jose, he’d be dead.” 

Davis agreed, adding, “but Berkeley, thank goodness, is still Berkeley.”