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Murder, Three Stabbings Mark Violent Weekend

By Richard Brenneman
Tuesday May 08, 2007

A murder and three stabbings marked Berkeley’s most violent 24 hours so far in 2007, ending with the wounding of two firefighters inside their station. 

The homicide is Berkeley’s first for the year, though the name of the victim, like the identity of his killer, remains a mystery.  

Police learned of the crime at 6:30 a.m. Sunday, when an employee of a West Berkeley business called emergency operators to report the discovery of a man lying atop an abandoned stretch of railroad track near the corner of Cedar and Second streets. 

He was unconscious when officers arrived at the scene, said Officer Ed Galvan, spokesperson for the Berkeley Police Department, and paramedics pronounced him dead soon after they arrived. 

“We’re trying to find out what killed him, and we need to identify him,” said Galvan, who described the victim only as a possibly Hispanic man, apparently in his 20s. 

The scene is located between a self-storage yard and an automobile towing and storage service. 

The victim was taken to the Alameda County Coroner’s office in Oakland for an autopsy, and coroner’s representative Charles Brewer said the examination was under way Monday afternoon, though results would be released by Berkeley police. 

Until completion of the autopsy, said Officer Galvan, the time of death remains unknown. 

“We know that it happened sometime between the time the owner of a nearby business left Saturday and the time of his return at about 6:30 Sunday morning,” he said. 

The police representative said identification will be made by the coroner’s office. “They’ll pull his fingerprints. If he’s been fingerprinted for a driver’s license or an arrest or a job application that required a background check, it could be easy. If he hasn’t, it could be harder,” Galvan said. 

He asked anyone with information about the crime to call the department’s Homicide Detail at 981-5741 or the general switchboard at 981-5900. 


Triple stabbing 

Berkeley police arrested a suspect in the stabbings, identified as 53-year-old Michael Kenard Cornelius. 

The knifing spree began shortly before 1:45 a.m. Monday, when a woman was awakened from sleep in her home in the 2700 block of Milvia Street by the sounds of an intruder. 

Police were called to the scene by neighbors who reported that they’d heard a woman screaming, and officers found the woman bleeding from a cut in the arm inflicted by the intruder after she confronted him. 

Officers and paramedics arrived moments later, and the woman was able to provide a description of her attacker. 

Minutes later, Cornelius reportedly walked into the open engine bay at Berkeley Fire Station No. 5 a block away at 2680 Shattuck—the same station which had dispatched paramedics to treat the injured woman. 

“We got a call from Station 5 requesting help because someone was inside,” said Galvan. 

Meanwhile, when firefighters confronted the man in an attempt to capture him, the suspect fought back, stabbing one firefighter in the hand and another in the abdomen before making his getaway. 

“We found him about an hour later,” Galvan said. 

Following an intense search by Berkeley officers, an Oakland canine team and a California Highway Patrol helicopter, Cornelius was spotted hiding beneath the deck of a nearby home in the 2000 block Parker Street, where he was taken into custody. 

Galvan said he didn’t known if the suspect resisted arrest, nor if the knife had been recovered. 

Cornelius was booked on suspicion of three counts of assault with a deadly weapon, one count of first degree robbery for the home invasion of the home on Milvia, and one count of burglary. He was being held in Berkeley City Jail Monday afternoon 

None of the stabbing victims was seriously injured, Galvan said.  

“Both firefighters were treated for their injuries and released,” said Deputy Fire Chief David Orth. “They’ve gone home now.” 

“We’re not talking about it,” said Orth when asked for more details about the incident inside the station. “We’ve been deferring to the police department, which has been doing a good job. We’re taking care of our officers and making sure everything’s okay.” 

Cornelius may have a prior criminal record, as indicated by two habeas corpus applications denied by the state Court of Appeal and a published report that stated he was on probation stemming from a burglary conviction and prison sentence.