Flash: Man Shot to Death on Durant Avenue

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Wednesday May 14, 2008 - 05:00:00 PM
A police officer (at right) talks to people identified by police as friends and family of the shooting victim.
By Riya Bhattacharjee
A police officer (at right) talks to people identified by police as friends and family of the shooting victim.
A woman prostrate with grief at the shooting scene, surrounded by victim's friends and family.
Contributed Photo
A woman prostrate with grief at the shooting scene, surrounded by victim's friends and family.
The crime scene on the south side of Durant Avenue near Bowditch.
Contributed Photo
The crime scene on the south side of Durant Avenue near Bowditch.

Police are searching for a suspect connected with the murder of Maceo Smith, 33, found shot to death in broad daylight at the Douglas Parking Lot at 2542 Durant Ave. Tuesday, a block from UC Berkeley. 

Another person, who drove to Highland Hospital in Oakland with gunshot wounds immediately after the shooting, was also involved in the incident, police officials said Wednesday. 

Berkeley Police Department (BPD) spokesperson Sgt. Mary Kusmiss said Berkeley homicide detectives were following strong leads on the suspect. 

Kusmiss said a 911 call around 3:49 p.m. had alerted Berkeley police to a man with a gun at Durant and Bowditch Street. A second caller at 3:51 p.m. reported that a gunshot victim was lying in the Douglas Parking Lot, east of Top Dog restaurant at 2534 Durant Ave. 

Officers from both Berkeley and UC police found a young man on the ground—later identified by relatives as Smith, a Berkeley resident—with several gunshot wounds. He was pronounced dead by Berkeley Fire Department paramedics at the scene. 

“It was a beautiful day and we had a lot of community members out on the streets at that time,” Kusmiss said. “They have had an opportunity to speak with a number of witnesses who have shed light on pieces of the story.” 

The victim was not a UC Berkeley student or affiliated with the university, Kusmiss said. She added there was a possibility of a verbal exchange before the shots were fired but did not provide any more details.  

According to police reports, a witness reported seeing a silver Cadillac leaving the area after the gunshots were heard, and a detective from the Special Enforcement Unit spotted the car west of downtown and followed it to Highway I-580. 

The driver turned up at Highland Hospital and is being treated at for gunshot wounds that are non- life-threatening, Kusmiss said. 

“We are not offering his name as he is a victim of a violent crime,” she said Wednesday. “Detectives worked through the night and are pursuing some leads.” 

One witness told the Planet that a family member gave police a name for the second victim Tuesday. 

Shocked UC Berkeley students and passers-by watched as family and friends of the victim broke down in the middle of the street while police detectives tried to talk to them at the site of the shooting a little after 4 p.m. Tuesday. 

“He has a tattoo on his right arm,” a woman in a cream sweater told one of the detectives as she started to cry. “I don’t know anything else.”  

Smith’s mother Rita McIntyre, a food services worker at Willard Middle School, was consoling a family member and giving police her information. 

“I was in Richmond,” she told a female detective shaking her head. “I don’t know anything about this.” 

McIntyre was going to be honored at the Berkeley Unified School District’s Employee Retirement and Recognition Ceremony at 4 p.m. at the Berkeley Adult School on San Pablo Avenue Tuesday, district spokesperson Mark Coplan said. 

“She missed the ceremony,” Coplan said. “She was being recognized for 20 years of service in the district’s Nutrition Services Department. She has been a part of the Willard community for a number of years, Everything she does for Willard and Willard students is valued by the community. 

Coplan said he believed McIntyre’s entire family—including her son Maceo—had graduated from Berkeley High, and that her daughter, Maceo’s sister, also worked at Willard. 

Smith’s oldest son attends Willard Middle School and his two younger ones are students at a Berkeley elementary school, Coplan said. 

“Our sympathy goes out to Rita’s family,” Coplan said. “And we grieve with them. I am guessing Rita was on her way to the recognition ceremony when she got the news about her son. I received a phone call about it during the ceremony, but I didn’t check my messages until after 5 p.m.” 

The City of Berkeley’s mental health department is offering counseling services to students and staff at Willard, where three of Smith’s family members either work or are enrolled. 

“To my knowledge they [the family members] are not in school and won’t be for a bit,” Coplan said. 

Calls to McIntyre Wednesday from the Planet were not returned. 

Berkeley police cordoned off the area between Bowditch and Telegraph and asked people to stay clear of the crime scene. Homicide detectives were interviewing eyewitnesses in the parking lot Tuesday. 

The site now has a small shrine with votive candles and roses for Smith. 

Mona Rahmani, who owns Campus Flowers next to Top Dog, said she had heard about 10 gun shots around 3:45 p.m.  

“I saw three people running towards Telegraph,” she said. “One of them had blood on his shirt and he was limping. I thought he must have hugged the guy who was shot. I grabbed the ladies who were outside my shop and told them to come in. Everybody was terrified.”  

Rahmani said she rushed out of her shop to the parking lot, where she saw the young man lying flat on the ground with a woman she took to be his girlfriend.  

“He was bleeding and his girlfriend was screaming,” she said. “He looked African American and in his late 20s. The police took his girlfriend away. I didn’t hear any verbal arguments before the gunshots, but they are saying the boys knew each other. All this is just crazy, especially with all the graduation events happening all around the campus.”  

Right after the incident, horrified passers-by panicked and ducked under stairs and hid between buildings, Rahmani said.  

One of them, Brandy Ellison, told the Planet that a Top Dog worker told him he had heard the young men arguing before the shots were fired.  

“He heard one of them say, ‘If you are going to do me like that,’ and things to that effect, and then he heard shots,” Ellison said.  

The Top Dog employee, who did not want to be identified, told the Planet reporter he had heard four to six gun shots.  

“I thought they were firecrackers, but then I saw two people running away and one of them had blood all over his shirt,” he said.  

Around 5:45 p.m. police detectives lifted up the yellow tape and asked the family members to step inside the taped-off area. The victim’s friends and family were upset and angry because the police were not allowing them to view the body.  

“The news reporters tell us more than you do,” one of them said. “What’s the matter, why aren’t you telling us anything?” 

Tuesday’s shooting marked the fifth homicide of the year in Berkeley. UC Berkeley engineering student Chris Wootton was stabbed to death with a pocket knife near his fraternity house on Piedmont Avenue 10 days ago.  

Police arrested Berkeley City College student Andrew Hoeft-Edenfield in connection with the murder within 12 hours of the incident and the Alameda County District Attorney’s office has charged him with murder. 

BPD detectives are urging anyone that may have information regarding Tuesday’s shooting to call the BPD Homicide detail at (510) 981-5741.