A UC Berkeley student present at the scene of a collision between a Berkeley police car and a car full of teenagers early Sunday morning was arrested “for challenging an officer for a fight and refusing to leave the crime scene,” a Berkeley Police Department public information officer said Monday.
The student, however, is alleging that he was beaten up by Berkeley Police Department officers without any reason.
In an e-mail to the Planet Monday, UC Berkeley undergraduate Evan Cox alleged that he and his friend were physically abused by Berkeley city police officers simply because they walked up to the accident scene and asked questions.
BPD spokesperson Lt. Andrew Greenwood said the student could file a complaint with the Berkeley Police Department’s Internal Affairs bureau which handles officer misconduct.
On Sunday, April 11, the Berkeley Police Department reported that a Berkeley police officer driving a patrol car was injured in a collision with another car full of teenagers.
The officer was going west on Haste Street at about 1:20 a.m. when a white sedan with five teenagers driving north allegedly ran a red light at Telegraph Avenue and T-boned the officer’s car, police said.
The sedan crashed into a power pole following the collision and the patrol car hit the corner of a building located at the northwest corner of Telegraph and Haste.
Both cars were totaled on impact, and the officer escaped with neck and back pain. The officer, a 20-year veteran whose name was not released, was taken to a local hospital and discharged after several hours.
The teenagers in the sedan were not hurt and police don’t believe that the car’s 17-year-old driver had been under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
The driver was not arrested and the California Highway Patrol is currently investigating the crash, Greenwood said.
Cox said that he did not witness the actual accident because it took place directly behind him. He said that when he turned around, he saw that the traffic light on Telegraph for pedestrians was green and switched to “yellow a couple of seconds” later.
“Many others claimed the officer had run the red light,” he said.
Greenwood said that anyone who saw anything related to the accident should contact the California Highway Patrol, which is the investigating agency any time a police officer is involved in a car accident.
Cox said that as he “moved in to make sure if anyone was hurt” with his friend Gabriella Calvo, BPD Sergeant Hong, who arrived at the scene “dressed in jeans and a windbreaker began pushing Gabriella away.”
“Unsure of who this man was, I approached him and told him there was no need to put his hands on the woman, took her by the arm and began to walk away,” Cox said. “I was then grabbed on the arm and assaulted by Hong, who twisted it in a possible attempt to subdue me.”
Cox said that he ran briefly, then turned around to say he was not running any more and “asked why they were doing this.”
“At this point, an officer running straight at me struck me in the face causing my nose to bleed excessively,” he said. “I was tackled by two other officers and beaten in the legs and back with a baton and arrested after not laying a finger on anyone.”
Cox said in his e-mail that “this aspect of the story has not been mentioned yet and I feel it is necessary for the community to know about these unacceptable and deplorable actions taken by BPD.”
Greenwood said that BPD officers arrived at the scene of the collision to find a group of people standing close to the scene, yelling obscenities at the police officers who were trying to move people away from the scene.
He said that when officers warned the crowd to step away, most of them complied except for two people.
“One of them (Cox) took a fighting stance against the officers and raised his arms,” he said. “As the officers took ahold of the person, he took off running. Two officers ran after him and when they caught up to him he struggled.”
Greenwood said that Cox refused to respond to orders to stop resisting arrest and ultimately was forced into handcuffs and brought to the Berkeley police station.
Cox, a 21-year-old Oxnard resident, was cited for resisting arrest, battery on a police officer and interference with a police officer and released.
“The case will go to the District Attorney who may or may not decide to charge him (Cox), Greenwood said.
Cox said that he and his friend Gabriella had been some of the first people to be at the scene of the accident.
“I was just making sure people were OK,” he said. “Sgt. Hong had barely started telling us to comply, at which point he started pushing Gabby away.”
Cox said that later when the police got ahold of him, he had struggled a bit. “I was really angry and kept saying ‘why are you doing this?’” he said.
Christina Slores, a third year UC Berkeley student who lives in an apartment located at the intersection where the crash took place, called the Planet to say that she had witnessed Berkeley police harassing Cox and Calvo.
“I heard the crash and was at the scene within five minutes of it,” she said. “I saw a guy, whom I later came to know was Evan, standing across the street. I didn’t think he was hostile towards the officers. All of a sudden I saw an officer push him and he kind of instinctively pushed the officer forward. He probably realized he had done something wrong and started running. Three or four police officers started chasing him. The thing that got me angry was that the officers pushed him for no apparent reason. That could have been me, standing there, getting treated like that.”
Cox said he was planning to press charges against the Berkeley police officers and would try to get his charges dropped.