UC Berkeley shooting suspect put on psych hold after arrest

UCPD arrested the shooter within two minutes of the first 911 call. No one was wounded Friday night.

UC Berkeley shooting suspect put on psych hold after arrest
Evidence markers near the suspect's motorcycle after a non-injury shooting at UC Berkeley on Friday night, Feb. 9, 2024. Emilie Raguso/The Berkeley Scanner

A man was placed on a psychiatric hold after opening fire with a semi-automatic handgun on the UC Berkeley campus Friday night.

No one was hurt but thousands of concertgoers attending a Renée Fleming performance at Zellerbach Hall, along with many students in the area, were required to shelter in place for an extended period until police deemed campus safe.

Officers found at least one large window in a nearby UC Berkeley building that had been shattered by a bullet.

According to video footage reviewed by The Berkeley Scanner, as well as independent reporting and community tips, the shooter rode onto campus on a gray Honda motorcycle before confronting students during their dance practice on Lower Sproul Plaza.

The gunman then fired about nine shots into the air at 8:40 p.m. just outside the tent where the students had been practicing.

According to emergency radio traffic reviewed by The Scanner, police rapidly responded, arresting the man within 2 minutes of the first 911 call about the shooting.

In the aftermath, however, many students criticized the lack of communication from campus officials both during and after the incident.

According to emergency broadcasts, UCPD's dispatch center was overwhelmed with 911 calls from people who were desperate to know what was going on.

One dispatcher who asked over the air for help to update the community via the WarnMe notification system was told no one was available for the task.

According to dispatch traffic, officers were busy making sure there were no other shooters on campus, checking for gunshot victims, clearing buildings and tracking down witnesses who had fled in fear.

UC Berkeley to review WarnMe alert system after gun scare
UC Berkeley will now “take a closer look at our WarnMe protocols including messaging and expanding the list of campus officials with access.”

After taking the shooter to a police interview room on campus for about 30 minutes, UCPD announced over the radio that he would be taken to John George Psychiatric Hospital for a psychiatric hold.

The man's name has not been released pending the booking process, but his motorcycle was registered to an Oakland address, according to dispatch traffic.

Just after 11:20 a.m. Saturday, UC Berkeley said that the suspect is a 59-year-old man who is not affiliated with campus and has no known city of residence.

The man "will be booked on several charges including possession of a loaded firearm and negligent discharge of a firearm," UCPD said in the prepared statement.

UC Berkeley shooter seemed upset, delusional

Evidence markers and police at UC Berkeley on Friday night. Emilie Raguso/TBS

According to a video that has been shared among UC Berkeley students, the man confronted a student group in a large white tent on Lower Sproul Plaza just before the shooting.

In the video, the man can be seen holding what appears to be a cellphone in his right hand. He's wearing a motorcycle glove on his left hand. No weapon is visible.

As the video begins, a few dozen students appear to be milling about calmly as the man yells, "Get back in line."

One student, who is inaudible, tries to speak quietly to the man, seemingly urging him to leave. The man shouts back, "No, that's not happening."

The man then yells at someone off-camera who tries to exit the tent.

"You, you, get back in here," the man shouts repeatedly.

At that point, the same student again urges the man to leave, saying, "There's a concert going, so you need to… " before trailing off.

Instead, the man aggressively puts his hand in the student's face to stop him from talking.

"I'll go tell your grandpa!" he yells at several students who also try to speak with him.

The man, trailed by a woman who seems to be having her own mental health issues — it was unclear if the man and woman knew each other — then begins ordering the students to "relax" before demanding to know if they knew who he was.

"You want me to call … PD?" he seems to ask. (The audio is unclear.) "I can get 50 agents down here and deport all you guys."

"You want that to happen?" he asks.

Throughout the 1-minute confrontation, the students remained calm as some of them periodically tried to reason with the man. Others just watched.

No one appeared, at least in the video, to be particularly concerned or frightened.

The video ends before the shooting happened but was reportedly recorded just 1 minute earlier.

A UC Berkeley student told KTVU that the man had come into the tent asking for a USB charger.

"I guess the club organizers were trying to direct the person elsewhere," he said. "But I guess it started to escalate."

Police quickly detained UC Berkeley shooter

The suspect's backpack and other property inside the tent where the confrontation with students took place. Emilie Raguso/TBS

According to a brief statement from UC Berkeley officials, UCPD officers were already en route to the area because someone had called to report "an altercation" on Lower Sproul Plaza.

Berkeley police officers were also nearby.

The following timeline is based on emergency dispatch audio for UCPD and the Berkeley Police Department that was reviewed by The Berkeley Scanner.

"I'm getting multiple 911 calls with a man with a gun," UCPD reported at 8:40 p.m. "And he just shot it, I just heard it — Lower Sproul in the tent area — a man with a gun."

At 8:41 p.m., UCPD announced that officers had someone at gunpoint and had taken him into custody.

At least one BPD officer was there too, reporting over the radio: "I'm out with UCPD. We have people at gunpoint and they have a person with a gun on campus."

Amid the emergency beeper tones, which are generally broadcast during critical incidents, a UCPD officer advised her team to "check the tent" as a colleague reported, "I have a rifle deployed" (meaning that he was carrying it).

Meanwhile, a BPD officer shared updates with his team.

"We have one in custody with a gun here on the ground. There might be another person on campus. UC is checking. They're out with rifles right now," he said. "There are students running everywhere."

Many of the students ran inside the ASUC Student Union nearby as police began blocking westbound traffic on Bancroft Way from Telegraph Avenue.

An AC Transit bus had to pull over, which brought Alameda County sheriff's deputies to the scene.

A broken window at Eshleman Hall at UC Berkeley after a man opened fire with a semi-automatic weapon Friday night. Scanner Insider

During the initial response, officers found a large broken window on the second floor of Eshleman Hall, which overlooks Lower Sproul Plaza.

Police continued looking for possible victims but found none.

"We're getting a lot of 911 calls," BPD dispatch reported over the radio at 8:45 p.m.

At 8:46 p.m. a BPD officer told dispatch to turn off its emergency beeper: "As of now, it doesn't appear there's any outstanding suspects."

Officers from both agencies continued looking for victims, witnesses and property damage. They also ran the license plate of the suspect's motorcycle and determined which agency would be in charge of the case.

Since the incident happened on the UC Berkeley campus, UCPD took the lead.

At 8:50 p.m., a UCPD officer asked for an update on the situation.

"We have some people hunkered down in a hallway," he said. "Do you want them to be allowed to come and grab their property or just remain there?"

"As of now, there are no victims and no outstanding suspects," a sergeant advised.

People were still being told to shelter in place as police looked for witnesses and collected evidence.

At about 9 p.m., a UCPD officer asked for campus facilities staff to bring a 10-foot-by-30-foot piece of wood to cover the broken window at Eshleman.

They also noted that there were 2,000 people inside Zellerbach Hall, just west of the plaza, who would eventually be coming out when it was safe.

"They've already called me multiple times on when they can release these people," UCPD said of Zellerbach staff.

UCPD was too overwhelmed to send WarnMe alert

Police taped of the sidewalk on the north side of Bancroft Way during the shelter-in-place order. Emilie Raguso/TBS

"Is there any available unit that can send out a message because I can't with all these phone calls," the UCPD dispatcher told a sergeant at 9:04 p.m. "If somebody can just send something out so maybe the phone calls can stop."

"I'll work on it," the sergeant responded. "But, at the time, no."

At 9:06 p.m., the sergeant advised that the situation was Code 4, no longer an emergency.

"The incident is contained. We have only one suspect, no known victims," she said. "We have the suspect in custody."

At 9:15 p.m., one officer took the suspect to the UCPD police station at Sproul Hall while another person prepped the interview room for him.

"So, I have multiple groups calling in regards to them all sheltering in place," a dispatcher told the sergeant. "If they call, am I able to advise them that they can clear?"

At that point, a captain advised: "If you guys have not made Code 4, if you have not confirmed there's not anybody outstanding, I would have everybody continue to shelter in place."

Lower Sproul Plaza is located on the south side of campus, near Bancroft Way and Telegraph Avenue. UC Berkeley

Just after 9:20 p.m., UCPD issued a WarnMe notice advising only that "an aggravated assault occurred at Lower Sproul Plaza. There is police activity in Lower Sproul Plaza. Avoid the area."

The WarnMe did not reference anything about a shelter-in-place order or make it clear that a shooting had occurred.

At 9:25 p.m., dispatch again asked the sergeant: "Did we get any update on advising these people if it's clear to leave campus?"

"As far as I know, we've got the one and only suspect in custody," the sergeant said. "We can put out the — no longer shelter in place."

Dispatch then asked the sergeant to find someone to send out a community update.

"Whoever sent out the original WarnMe, if they can do the update, I still can't even catch up with my calls in here," the dispatcher said. "If somebody could send that out for me, that would be great."

Police opened up traffic on Bancroft just after 9:30 p.m.

UC officially declared the situation "Code 4" at 9:40 p.m., which is also when they turned off the emergency beeper.

At 9:52 p.m., UCPD issued the updated WarnMe alert, writing only that, "The shelter-in-place order has been lifted. A suspect has been taken into custody, and the scene is contained and secure."

As of 10:04 p.m., some students were still sheltering in place, according to an inquiry to dispatch from a UCPD officer who asked over the radio if they could be released.

At 10:05 p.m., UCPD advised that the suspect would be going to John George for psychiatric care.

Thousands of people sheltered in place at Zellerbach

Concertgoers come out of the Renée Fleming performance after being told to shelter in place. Emilie Raguso/TBS

Due to a personal commitment, The Scanner did not arrive on campus until about 10 p.m., a few minutes before the concert at Zellerbach Hall ended.

When audience members came outside, they said they had been told to stay in their seats during intermission, which had lasted about 40 minutes instead of the usual 15.

The atmosphere inside was relaxed, they said — aside from people needing to use the restroom and not being able to leave.

They were told to shelter in place but were not given details.

"They just said there had been a crime," one audience member said.

After the extended intermission, the concert continued as planned.

Advised by The Scanner that there had been gunfire nearby, one concertgoer said the precautions made more sense.

"No wonder they told us to stay in our seats," he said. "They didn't even want us in the lobby."

Another woman said she had only learned about what happened due to alerts from the Citizen app.

UC Berkeley students voice frustration over vague updates

On Friday night, more than a dozen posts about the shooting popped up on the UC Berkeley Reddit page, a popular online communication forum for students.

In some, they shared video, photographs and updates from the scene. In others, they talked about generally feeling unsafe on campus.

"Honestly haven’t felt as unsafe in my life as I have in Berkeley," one person wrote. "Why is gun crime so rife here???"

"How is it that at literally one of the best universities in the world students aren't even safe walking around campus," a person wrote on a different post about campus crime. "We shouldn't have to worry about getting robbed, assaulted, or freaking shot on the way to classes and clubs."

Sixteen months ago, a man was killed and three of his relatives were wounded during a shooting one block south of the UC Berkeley campus. It was Berkeley's worst shooting in decades.

Most of the Reddit posts were critical of UC Berkeley's efforts at emergency communication.

At 9:12 p.m., about 30 minutes after the suspect had been detained, a student posted that there had been a shooting on campus, adding: "Wheres the WarnMe when you need it ??????"

The most popular post on the campus Reddit page Friday night was titled, "So we can agree WarnMe sucks."

"Warnme doesn’t hesitate to send me stupid emails the moment someone on campus steals a banana, but when some crazy man starts shooting Warnme didn’t even bother to let me know! Completely ridiculous!" one student wrote.

"And then when they do send it, it just says 'aggravated assault,'" wrote another.

"Warn us about an orbeez gun twice but not a real one," another student said.

"Also not the practice emergency siren going off earlier this week," one said. "Why have all these precautions when they don’t do shit during an actual shooting?"

In another popular post, a student said it seemed like UC Berkeley was "tryna down play it."

Another student was so frustrated by the limited communication that he immediately created a Change.org petition to "Demand Resignation and Reform of UC Berkeley's Office of Emergency Management."

"My personal safety, along with that of thousands of other students, was compromised due to the lackadaisical attitude and poor communication by the Office of Emergency Management at UC Berkeley," he wrote. "We were left in fear during a school shooting incident, as the agency obfuscated the actual nature of the crime. The delay in warning students and miscommunication has exposed a serious flaw in our campus safety measures."

As of publication time, the petition had yet to pick up steam.

Shortly after publication, a UC Berkeley student told The Scanner that she had been on the fifth floor of Eshleman when the man outside began shooting on Lower Sproul Plaza.

She said many students had been frustrated by the lack of information.

"We were all texting each other to stay away from the area since the school didn’t say anything," she said. "Students around me could see the shots fired from outside the window. It was scary but I’m happy no one was hurt, it could’ve been so much worse."

Original story: A man is in custody, and no one is hurt, after reports of a shooting at UC Berkeley on Friday night.

Limited details were available as of publication time. The incident was reported around 8:45 or 9 p.m.

Hundreds of people inside Zellerbach Hall on campus had an extended intermission during a Renée Fleming concert due to the police response.

After the scene was deemed safe, the concert resumed, attendees said.

They said the atmosphere was calm inside.

Some of them said they only knew about what happened due to alerts from the Citizen app.

Shortly after 11:30 p.m., UC Berkeley provided a brief statement about what happened.

According to UC Berkeley, the incident began with an altercation in Lower Sproul Plaza on Friday evening.

"After the altercation, one individual produced a weapon and shot several rounds into the air at approximately 8:40 p.m.," UC Berkeley said. "This was a lone actor, there were no victims or additional shooters. Police were already en route to the altercation and the suspect was quickly detained at 8:41. Police searched and cleared the area. A shelter-in-place order for the area was lifted at 9:50 p.m."

There will be additional police on campus Friday night, UC Berkeley said.

The Scanner is seeking additional information and will update this story as it becomes available.

This story was updated Friday night due to the developing nature of events.

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