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20-Hour Standoff on Fifth St.

By Richard Brenneman
Friday April 14, 2006

A tall, heavy-set man claiming to be “God and the messiah” barricaded himself inside his Ocean Gardens home for 20 hours before surrendering without incident early Thursday. 

During the siege, Berkeley Police had evacuated most of the residents of the small housing complex in 1700 block of Fifth Street—though business as usual continued in the shops on Fourth Street. 

Police sealed off sections of Fifth and Sixth streets, and a mobile command post was established in a parking lot off Fifth a block north of the apartments. 

Masked and armored officers armed with military assault rifles prowled the apartment complex while BPD’s Barricaded Subject Hostage Negotiating Team talked to the agitated man through doors and windows. 

“He was armed only with kitchen cutlery,” said Berkeley Police spokesperson Officer Ed Galvan. 

The incident began at 4:40 a.m., when police received calls about an agitated man running up and down Fifth Street, crying out that he was God and the messiah. 

“We sent a couple of officers, and when they arrived he was in the middle of the street,” Galvan said. 

Seeing the officers, the man—described as a 32-year-old, 300-pound six-footer—got in his car, and appeared ready to drive off. 

“The officers talked to him and asked for his keys. He complied and got out of the car,” Galvan said. “He was sweating heavily and quite agitated.” 

All was going well until the officers tried to handcuff the man. As the officers tried to restrain him, the heavyset suspect bolted, then ran into his apartment and the standoff began. 

Armed with kitchen cutlery, the man kept officers at bay. The hostage team was summoned, and evacuation of the apartment complex began. 

Before the siege ended, Galvan said, an estimated 20 to 25 officers were involved, assisted by officers from the UC Berkeley Police Department and Alameda County Sheriff’s deputies. 

Negotiators were in contact with the distraught suspect throughout the crisis. 

Galvan said he suspects the man’s surrender may have been triggered by a combination of exhaustion and the decision by officers to turn off the utilities in the apartment, leaving him in darkness. 

Following his surrender, the man was taken to the Alameda County Medical Center’s John George Psychiatric Pavilion in San Leandro, where he is currently undergoing evaluation, Galvan said. 

Residents were evacuated to the North Berkeley Senior Center, which served as an emergency shelter during the incident. By 10 p.m. only four people remained in the shelter, Galvan said. Most of the others had found alternative places to stay.  

City Manager Phil Kamlarz and City Councilmember Linda Maio visited the scene during the late afternoon. 

Neighbors seemed to take the incident in stride. 

One couple parked in the car in the Restoration Hardware parking lot, hoping they’d be able to return to their home. 

“He broke up with his girlfriend,” said one of the pair. “That’s what we figure set this off.” 

Another car in the same lot was occupied by people one officer identified as relatives of the barricaded man. 

Yet another man complained to a officer that he was losing business and wanted things brought to a conclusion. 

“He’d probably feel different if it was one of his family members,” said Galvan, who said that, “especially in this city, we were going to sit there for a while” and not force the situation. 

“We had no indication he was armed with anything beyond kitchen knives,” said Galvan, adding that after the surrender, no firearms or other types of weapons were found..