Berkeley resident Nathaniel Freeman, 19, was arraigned last week for the murder of Oakland Parks and Recreation employee Maceo Smith, who was shot to death in broad daylight one block south of the UC Berkeley campus earlier that week.
Freeman, who turned himself in to police, was charged with one count of murder and assault with a deadly weapon in the attack which left Smith dead and wounded another man who was later identified as Marcus Mosley.
Tensions ran high at the May 16 court session. Smith’s father thought Alameda County Sheriff’s deputies in the courtroom of Judge Beverly Daniels-Greenberg were being disrespectful to people who were sitting in the courtroom and asked to talk to a supervisor.
Moments later prosecutor Mark McCannon talked to Smith’s father and a group of Smith’s relatives and friends in an effort to calm them down, telling them that court officials didn’t want to kick them out of court, but that they had to refrain from being disruptive.
Right before McCannon met with the group, a couple of Smith’s friends approached two reporters in the hallway outside the courtroom and told them they were displeased with the way Smith’s death had been reported.
They asked the reporters to leave the courthouse. The two men didn’t elaborate on what their objections were to the news coverage.
Daniels-Greenberg ordered that Freeman be held without bail, and added that he (Freeman) should not contact Mosley, either directly or indirectly through third parties or through phone calls, e-mails or text messages.
Several of Smith’s family members cried when the judge read out Freeman’s charges, alleging he had murdered Smith. Freeman is scheduled to return to court on May 30 to finalize his legal representation and possibly enter a plea.
According to police reports, Smith and Mosley were arguing with Freeman around 3:49 p.m. on May 13 about a previous encounter.
“From what we have been able to piece together, the second victim (Mosley) was in the area of Durant and Telegraph alone when he spotted Freeman and recognized him from a prior recent encounter,” said Sgt. Mary Kusmiss, Berkeley police spokesperson.
“He followed Freeman and according to witnesses, the second victim started what is often termed on the street as ‘chipping at him,’” Kusmiss said. “The two of them walked east of Telegraph up on Durant arguing, and the second victim (Mosley) called Smith and asked him to join him on Durant.”
After Smith arrived, the three of them continued to argue for about 20 minutes, Kusmiss said, and then continued eastbound on Durant to the area near the old Pacific Film Archive.
Freeman changed his direction and walked westbound, with the two older men following him while they continued to argue.
“The three crossed Durant at Bowditch Street and on the Southwest corner of Bowditch and Durant, Freeman pulled out a semi-automatic pistol and fired at the two men, striking both multiple times,” Kusmiss said.
The two victims fled westbound to the Douglas parking lot, where Smith collapsed and Mosley took off in his silver Cadillac.
Mosley drove himself to Highland Hospital where he was treated for non-life-threatening gunshot wounds to his shoulder and arm and released later that evening.
Smith, shot in the throat a couple of times, was pronounced dead at the scene when Berkeley paramedics arrived.
The search for Freeman took nearly 24 hours, including a search of Freeman’s home, interviews, lineups with witnesses and multiple surveillance of several Berkeley and Oakland locations, according to police.
Kusmiss said Freeman was aware Berkeley police were searching for him.
“During the overnight hours after the murder, detectives learned he was the shooter in the crime,” Kusmiss said. “He was positively identified by a number of eyewitnesses, and detectives were able to develop probable cause to secure a warrant to search his house for any evidence of the crime. Detectives met with several family members at his house who had been communicating with Freeman. That likely was the catalyst for him coming to us.”
At 4 p.m. on May 14, Freeman turned himself in to Berkeley Police Department homicide detectives at the Ron Tsukamoto Public Safety Building. He was accompanied by an attorney and declined to be interviewed regarding the crime.
Kusmiss said, “We wish to stress how grateful we are to the community members that cooperated with the scary and challenging investigation by providing witness statements, viewed line-ups...without them, this swift arrest may not have been possible.”
Smith’s body lay at the Douglas parking lot for almost three hours after he collapsed there Tuesday, police said, since the Alameda County Coroner’s office was unable to show up at the scene earlier.
His family—most of whom live in Berkeley, Richmond and Oakland—were alerted about the shooting by the second victim when he was driving to Highland Hospital, Kusmiss said.
“We recognize it was a very very devastating experience for the family to be held at bay and endure those hours while officers were investigating the incident,” she said. “But it’s important to remember our goal is to catch the killer.”
Kusmiss said both Freeman and Smith have a criminal history and were arrested by Berkeley police in the past for a number of offenses.
Court records indicate Smith was arrested on gun and drug charges, but was never convicted of a felony.
District Superintendent Bill Huyett expressed shock at the incident at the Berkeley school board meeting last week. Smith, a Berkeley High alumnus, was the parent of three children in the public schools, one in middle school and two in elementary school.
“One of our parents was shot and murdered yesterday,” Huyett said. “His children are at Willard and Emerson schools. I have spoken to the principals and my condolences are with the family.”
Berkeley’s mental health department offered counseling services to students and staff at Willard, where three of Smith’s family members either work or are enrolled.
Another Berkeley resident, who did not want to be identified, told the Planet that he played basketball frequently with Smith at the Downtown YMCA for the past four years.
“[Smith was] a big-hearted guy who was always the first to help up a fallen teammate. He was a regular at our pick- up games,” he said. “He cared a lot about his children. You could just tell the way he spoke about them and behaved with them. I remember he had a great smile.
The young man said inside Smith’s tough exterior lay a gentleman.
“When you knew him, he was very kind,” he said. “Basketball is a very physical game and he was quick to include children in his games. He was strong without being rough... He was one of us at the Y.”
Bay City News contributed to this report.