Report of Armed Man at Berkeley's King School Was False

Becky O'Malley
Friday May 10, 2019 - 01:20:00 PM

The Planet has been contacted by the family of the King Middle School student whose experience with bullying precipitated an uproar yesterday on the school site. Before it was over, it brought numerous Berkeley police with drawn guns to a locked down campus, responding to a report that a suspect with a gun had been sighted. This turned out not to be true, according to a family member familiar with the situation (who asked that her name not be used because of fear of reprisals) who called the Planet on the family’s behalf this morning. 

She told us that the child in question, an 11-year-old boy, had recently moved to this area. He is a small special needs student, with problems including seizures and tics which he can’t control. He has experienced several episodes of being beaten up by fellow students since he entered King, which have been reported to school administrators, but, as reported by his relative, “there were no consequences”. She says that these instances have been recorded on video. 

By her account, yet another such incident was reported on Thursday, which prompted the boy’s mother, accompanied by two other family friends, to go to the school to see if he needed their help, since school administrators had not been able to stop the bullying. One of these friends, an African-American young man with dreadlocks, was the person reported—it’s not clear by whom—to be in possession of a gun, which turned out not to be true, despite reports in local media to the contrary. 

Yesterday’s Berkeley Police Department press release, reprinted in the Planet, described “a report of a man armed with a handgun” and said that “the suspect… appears to be a parent or caregiver of a student.” 

The Police Department release said that “ witnesses described the suspect as a 20- to 30-year-old black male, 5’7” tall, with a medium build and long “twisty” braids. He was reportedly wearing a white hooded top, and blue jeans.” 

Our contact said that when the family friend who matched that description learned that he’d been accused of carrying a gun onto a school site, he voluntarily went to the Berkeley Police and told them what had actually happened. As a result, no charges of any kind have been filed about the incident. 

It’s possible that the panicky response of students and administrators might have been caused by stereotypical views of a young Black man with dreads and a hoodie, ironic in that recent school shooters have overwhelmingly been White. 

Family members of the 11-year-old bullying victim are still not satisfied with the school’s lack of success in ending the attacks.  

“We want to see some consequences for these kids,” our source said.  

She said that she was a 35-year Berkeley citizen, and another relative was a recently retired longtime BUSD employee, and that they’d encouraged the child’s immediate family to move here from another state because they hoped he’d get more help from the Berkeley schools.  

The Planet has not been able to contact school authorities for comment. 

Calls to Berkeley Police Officer Byron White, supposed to be BPD’s press contact, have not been returned.