Man armed with blade near UC Berkeley placed on psych hold

UCPD deployed a Taser on the armed man after he ignored orders and was not stopped by "less lethal" baton rounds, authorities said.

Man armed with blade near UC Berkeley placed on psych hold
Police arrest a man on Telegraph Avenue on Thursday, Feb. 15, 2024. Scanner Insider

A man armed with a blade and a 6-foot staff was detained on Telegraph Avenue and placed on a psychiatric hold Thursday evening, Berkeley police report.

UC Berkeley police deployed a Taser after the man ignored orders to drop the weapons and was undeterred by multiple "less lethal" rounds, authorities said.

The incident began around 4:50 p.m. Thursday when Berkeley police got a call about a man, in purple pants but no shirt, who was covered in fresh cuts and said to be carrying a machete and a large staff.

Scroll down for an update to the story.

An officer from the University of California Police Department spotted the man near campus, at Telegraph Avenue and Bancroft Way, BPD said.

When the man saw UCPD, he doubled back down Telegraph to avoid police, BPD said.

Berkeley officers caught up with him on Haste Street west of Telegraph Avenue.

BPD, which does not have Tasers, initially deployed less-lethal rounds when the man walked toward officers while armed and refused to comply with police orders to drop the weapons, authorities said.

When the less-lethal rounds failed to stop the man, a UCPD officer deployed a Taser.

Police were then able to take the man into custody shortly after 5 p.m., Berkeley police said.

The man was taken to Highland Hospital for assessment and was later placed on a psychiatric hold.

His name and age were unavailable as of publication time because he has not been booked.

Berkeley police said the area was crowded with people as the incident unfolded.

The Daily Californian reported that "police tasered the man after he began to swing the blade at people on the street," according to unconfirmed reports from a Mezzo employee. "The man appeared unable to answer questions about his name or what year it was. EMTs examined him before police handcuffed the man and took him into custody."

A community member who was in the area shortly after the incident told The Scanner that the man is a fixture on Telegraph Avenue and in the campus area, according to students he spoke with.

He also said he had reviewed a video of the incident and seen the man carrying a sickle rather than a machete.

The Berkeley Scanner will continue to seek details about what happened.

Police and paramedics on Haste Street after the arrest of a man Thursday, Feb. 15, 2024. Russ Mitchell

Update, 8:30 p.m. A community member, who spoke on condition of anonymity, saw part of what transpired on Telegraph on Thursday.

He said he had heard a sound in the street and then noticed that traffic on Telegraph had come to a stop. None of the cars were moving for several blocks.

"I thought it was a demonstration or something," he said.

Then, he said, he saw a man walking backward in the middle of the street.

The witness said he often sees the same man on the avenue and that he's usually carrying a staff — but never threatens anyone with it.

He often walks backward up and down the avenue, sometimes lightly clothed, while playing music through a portable speaker.

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On Thursday, the man was walking backward through traffic and smiling while carrying the staff and sickle, the witness said.

He said police then fired about four less-lethal rounds at the man, but they had no effect.

"The first couple didn't do anything," he said. "Finally they shot him [with the Taser] and he dropped."

He estimated that there were 20 officers on Telegraph and that it seemed to him like overkill, in part because the man was about 20 feet from any pedestrians.

But he also acknowledged that the sickle was sharp and looked like it could do serious damage to the man carrying it or anyone who got close to him.

The witness also noted that, while the man is generally calm, he is known to hurt himself.

Six months earlier, police took the same man into custody after he reportedly had been cutting himself with razors.

"He looks either happy or sad. But there's no there there," he said. "He reminds me of old Telegraph."

This story was updated after publication as additional information became available.

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