Berkeley High Student Arrested in Robbery, Campus Locked Down

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Thursday May 08, 2008 - 10:12:00 AM

Berkeley High School came under a brief lockdown Wednesday morning when Berkeley police searched the campus for a 17-year-old high school junior who was arrested for robbing a sophomore. 

A Berkeley woman called 911 around 9:42 a.m. to report a teenager wearing a black mask which covered the lower half of his face confronting another high school student at Civic Center Park, Berkeley Police Department (BPD) spokesperson Sgt. Mary Kusmiss told the Planet. 

“She was concerned that a robbery was in progress,” Kusmiss said. 

BPD officers—including officers from the nearby police headquarters on Martin Luther King Jr. Way—rushed to the park, located right across from Berkeley High, and found a 16-year-old Berkeley High sophomore, who said he had been threatened and robbed of his Creative Zen MP3 Player by another student named “Chris.” 

“He also told the officers that the suspect had what appeared to be a semi-automatic pistol tucked into his waistband,” Kusmiss said, “and that as police were arriving, this high school-aged suspect ran southbound across Allston Way onto the Berkeley High campus. He appeared to be very scared.” 

Berkeley police closed all the exits at the high school with the help of the school’s safety officers and placed the campus on lockdown.  

Students were directed to remain in their classrooms and staff held off from ringing the bell between periods to keep the students from moving from one classroom to the other to ensure their safety, Kusmiss said. 

District spokesperson Mark Coplan told the Planet that Wednesday had been the monthly “late start day,” on which school begins at 10 a.m. to accommodate staff meetings. 

“Since there was a report of a weapon, the police requested a lockdown so they could search for the alleged weapon without interruption,” Coplan said. 

A team of BPD officers searched the campus for the suspect, Kusmiss said, with the help of a description provided by the sophomore. 

Safety officers checked their campus databases for information on “Chris,” and at approximately 11 a.m.—an hour and 15 minutes after the incident—officers found the 11th-grader in Room 206, attending a class with other students. 

“He was arrested without any further incident and booked at Juvenile Hall for robbery,” Kusmiss said. 

BPD resource officers are following some student leads which indicate the suspect dumped the weapon in a garage bin on campus. 

“They are still scouring the campus for a weapon,” she said, adding that the case would be reviewed by the BPD youth services detectives and the Alameda County District Attorney’s office, following which recommendations would be made for what action should be taken against the 11th-grader.  

Kusmiss said the student had not said what his motive was for stealing the MP3 player, which costs approximately $100. 

“Crimes involving youth off-campus are more common than crimes involving school students themselves,” Kusmiss said. 

“Detectives interviewed the suspect’s mother to find out more information about the student. Since he is a juvenile and does not seem to have a prior criminal record, authorities will focus on rehabilitation rather than incarceration.”