Police Arrest Suspect in Robberies of Elders

By Richard Brenneman
Friday February 08, 2008

Berkeley police have arrested the man they believe stalked elderly men and women leaving grocery stores, then beat them before stealing their valuables. 

Jahton Green, a 21-year-old Oakland resident, was arrested after police raided a Berkeley residence where he had been staying, said Sgt. Mary Kusmiss, the department’s spokesperson. 

The youngest of the eight victims police believe Green attacked and robbed was a 57-year-old man, while the rest were over 70. The last, a 93-year-old, was assaulted and robbed as he walked into his condo. 

Several of the victims were attacked after they left two Berkeley grocery stores, the Berkeley Bowl and the North Shattuck Avenue Safeway. 

“The investigating officers believe he bicycled to the stores, then sat around and waited until he saw someone leaving the stores” who fit his victim profile, Sgt. Kusmiss said. 

Green was arrested Jan. 29, a day after what investigators believe was his eighth and most brutal robbery of a Berkeley resident. Five victims were women, three were men. 

The string of robberies began at 4:45 p.m. Nov. 17, when an 82-year-old woman was attacked as she was walking to her residence in the 1700 block of Hearst Avenue. 

Assaulted from the rear and shoved violently to the ground, the woman suffered a broken hip, which required surgery to repair. Her attacker grabbed her purse and fled, said Sgt. Kusmiss. 

“In the attacks, he would strike or punch his victim in the back of the head, knocking them to the ground,” she said. Further blows would follow if needed to subdue the victim. 

More attacks followed, with the next on Dec. 17 in the 2000 block of Hearst Avenue. Two robberies were reported on Dec. 28, one in Live Oak Park on the path between Oxford and Spruce streets and the second in the 1900 block of Oregon Street. 

The next attack, on Jan. 10, had special meaning for City Councilmember Betty Olds. 

A 78-year-old man was returning home from his daily stroll for coffee, conversation and a look at the newspapers at the Peet’s Coffee on Shattuck Avenue in North Berkeley, Olds said. 

“He noticed this guy following him, and he kept telling him, ‘I don’t have anything. Please go away,’” Olds said. But the man followed him to his home in the 1300 block of Arch Street. At his home, the bandit struck, knocking the man down, beating him, then rifling his pockets, leaving him, Kusmiss reported, “in a pool of blood.” 

The septuagenarian victim suffered fractures of the hip and femur, both of which needed surgical repairs, head injuries and permanent hearing loss. 

“I’d have had a heart attack if he attacked me,” said Olds, who is nearing her 88th birthday. “It’s so hard to be observant.” 

The next attack came Jan. 22, when a woman was struck and robbed of her purse near the corner of Hearst Avenue and Bonita Street. The next attack, another assault and purse snatch, took place at Bonita and University Avenue. The victim had turned 84 less than two weeks earlier. 

The final attack came on the 28th, when the robber followed his 93-year-old victim into his condo. 

Sgt. Kusmiss said the robber apparently followed close behind the nonagenarian as he entered the security door into his building, catching the door before it closed. 

She said he trailed the man to the door of his condo, and there shoved the victim into the door as he unlocked it, finally pushing him into the apartment, knocking him to the floor and striking him repeatedly in the head. 

“Then he picked up a suitcase and beat him in the head with it several times,” Sgt. Kusmiss said. The robber rifled the man’s pockets, making off with his wallet, identification and house keys. 

Olds said that Berkeley police had learned the identification of their suspect because a stolen credit card was used to make a purchase that was shipped to the Berkeley residence of a close associate of Green’s. 

“Fortunately for us, they were kind of dumb,” said Olds. 

Kusmiss said that once some of the victims had identified Green in a photographic lineup, investigators obtained warrants to search the apartment of Stewart Tremaine Robinson, 19, at 2009 McGee St. 

Kusmiss said that while Green lived in Berkeley, he spent much of his time at Robinson’s home, and when officers conducted their search they found 49 pieces of evidence directly linked to the crimes, including “four purses and lots of ID and credit cards.” 

Green and Robinson were both arrested. 

After examining the evidence and witness statements, the Alameda County District Attorney’s office charged Green with two counts of second-degree robbery with great bodily injury, grand theft and receiving stolen property. Robinson was charged with fraud for using a stolen credit card to make a purchase. 

“The detectives are very confident Green is responsible for all eight robberies,” Kusmiss said. “But because the victims were struck or strong-armed from behind, some were unable to make identifications.” 

Kusmiss said state law also provides separate sentencing enhancements for victims over age 70 and for victims over 80. 

“These are very significant felonies with mandatory sentences,” she said. 

“It’s so sad that old people have to worry about people like this,” said Olds. “Being one of those poor old things, I know.”