Ticking Car Brings Bomb Squad to North Berkeley Neighborhood

By Sasha Lekach (BCN)
Thursday May 03, 2012 - 04:35:00 PM

A bomb squad surrounded a parked car in Berkeley on Wednesday night after the car's owner reported fearing that a former co-worker had placed an explosive in the vehicle, a police lieutenant said. 

Police responded to the possible bomb threat around 7:30 p.m. in the 2500 block of Le Conte Avenue, according to Berkeley police Lt. David Frankel. 

A person who had been in an earlier dispute with a coworker came out to the car and heard a ticking noise, and believed it might be a bomb, Frankel said. 

Officers arrived, verified that there was a ticking noise coming from the car and called the bomb squad, Frankel said. 

Streets were shut down and neighbors were told to stay indoors.  

The bomb squad eventually determined that the sound was not the ticking of an explosive, but rather a maintenance issue with the car, he said. Streets were reopened and the warning was lifted. 

Resident Cliff Block said that around 9:30 p.m., Berkeley police called his home and told him and his wife, who works at the nearby University of California at Berkeley, to shelter in place. 

Hours later, at 2 a.m., Block said, they received a follow-up call letting them know the threat was cleared and the alert canceled. 

Another neighbor Fran Segal, 60, a Berkeley psychologist and artist who lives on Le Conte Avenue, was unable to get home because of the blocked-off streets and had to sleep at a friend's house.  

Segal said she arrived home around 9 p.m. but was told there was a bomb threat and that there was no access to her block. She returned at 11 p.m., but by that time police had cordoned off an even larger area, including Ridge Road, Euclid Avenue, Virginia Street and La Loma Avenue. 

She said she was stranded, along with a number of UC Berkeley students who couldn't get to their residences. 

Police eventually let Segal retrieve her car and, around midnight, she called a friend and asked to spend the night. 

When she returned home this morning, everything was back to normal. Block said police activity is unusual in the neighborhood, which he said is often called "Holy Hill" because of the many theological institutes nearby.