The dramatic suicide of a Berkeley man late Monday afternoon led police to a second gruesome discovery two days later, a badly decomposed male corpse walled up inside the a first floor laundry room.
A caller’s report of a loud argument brought officers to the building at 2235 Ashby Ave. Monday night, and they were directed to the apartment of Hassan Bin Ali.
Once the officers were inside the apartment, Bin Ali “pulled a handgun, put it to his head and subsequently took his own life,” said Berkeley police spokesperson Officer Andrew Frankel.
The police daily bulletin for Monday lists the time of the shot as 5:55 p.m.
Mortally wounded, he was rushed to Highland Hospital by a Berkeley Fire Department ambulance, where he was pronounced dead on arrival.
Frankel said the dead man had lived alone, and officers don’t know who he was arguing with at the time they were called. “We haven’t heard any reports of anyone seen coming or going, so it could have been an argument over the telephone,” he said.
During the subsequent investigation, “officers on the scene found evidence that led them to believe another crime may have been committed.”
Based on that evidence, detectives obtained a search warrant and began a thorough search of the building, leading to the discovery of the body entombed behind a wall on the first floor.
“I have no idea how long the body had been there,” he said. The body was in a state of advanced decomposition, and it was only the following day that forensic examiners were able to determine that the corpse was that of a male.
While one published account cited a neighbor who had described Bin Ali as paranoid before his suicide, Frankel said he had spoken to a neighbor who had been shocked that the man had taken his own life.
The Alameda County Coroner’s office is currently conducting an examination to determine what killed the concealed corpse, and until a finding is made, Frankel said the cause is being listed as “suspicious,” rather than as a homicide.
“We’re still aggressively working the case,” he said.
In a statement to the press released Friday afternoon, Berkeley Police Sgt Mary Kusmiss said “the Alameda County Coroner completed an autopsy yesterday. Due to decomposition of the body, the coroner will have to rely on dental records to confirm and/or rule out an identity.”
Bin Ali is known to have had a son, and officers have been unable to locate him, “though we are in contact with other members of the family,” Frankel said.
He asked anyone with any information about Bin Ali and the case to call police at 981-6900.
Berkeley firefighters were called to the scene after the body was discovered to assist with biohazard containment, said Deputy Fire Chief Gil Dong.
Berkeley police were responsible for retrieving the remains, which were contained in a large coffin-sized wooden box.
“We provided tools and equipment,” said Deputy Chief Dong.
Once police and firefighters had completed their phase of the removal, Arturo Sopon and his private cleanup team Morgan Environmental Service, an Oakland firm licensed by the state to handle hazardous waste and trauma scenes, arrived to finish the job, donning Tyvek suits, protective masks, boots and gloves, taping over the seams to prevent exposure.
“We clean up bodily fluids,” Sopon said, adding that work often spiked over the Christmas season and during summer months.