Female UC Berkeley students awoken by homeless intruder

Both young women, members of Cal's beach volleyball team, said they were still disturbed and traumatized by the incident months later.

Female UC Berkeley students awoken by homeless intruder
The UC Berkeley campanile. Raymond Burrage

A homeless man who wandered into the house of two UC Berkeley students, then screamed at one of them and stole the other's keys, has been held to answer on a burglary charge, according to court records.

The man was covered in a blanket and mumbling to himself when he opened an unlocked sliding door and began walking around the house on Hillegass Avenue, near Ashby Avenue, on May 14.

(The Scanner reviewed a transcript from the preliminary hearing on June 3 to write this story.)

Both residents, one-time members of Cal's beach volleyball team, said they were still disturbed and traumatized by the incident months later.

One of the young women said she woke up around 5:30 a.m. and heard noises in her backyard a short time later.

She heard someone talking and thought one of her neighbors might be outside. It was too dark to see.

A bit later, she was still in bed scrolling through TikTok when her bedroom door opened.

A person "shuffled in" and walked toward her, but left after seeing she was awake, she told the judge.

" I didn't think it was an intruder," she said. "I was confused."

She said she was still half-asleep and initially thought the person who opened her door was a new tenant who was supposed to move in that day.

But when she went into the kitchen, she found a homeless man wearing a blanket and walking around.

"He proceeded to scream at me," she said. "I was very startled, and I screamed something along the lines of, get out."

The man screamed back at her, she said.

"I was really scared. I yelled for my roommate," she said. "And then I ran into her room, which has a lock."

They called police and soon heard the man leave. Officers detained the intruder nearby and told the young women when it was safe to come out.

She said she still felt terrified and traumatized despite the time that had passed.

Her roommate also testified about how the incident had left her shaken.

She said she still found herself startled by noises, particularly when she was at home alone.

"He had no permission to be inside your house, right?" asked Michael King, attorney for defendant John Johnson.

"Yes," she told him.

"And it messed you up, it messed up your roommate," King said. "Now your whole living situation is all messed up, right?"

Yes, she said again.

The young woman also testified about how the stranger had stolen her keys from a hook near the door before he left.

Police found him in possession of the keys when they arrested him, according to court papers.

John Johnson. BPD

King argued that Johnson had only trespassed that morning. It was no burglary, he said.

He told the judge the prosecution had failed to prove Johnson had intended to commit a felony when he went inside. Felonious intent is necessary for a burglary conviction.

"Nothing is taken except when he is exiting," King said. "As he's leaving, he sees something shiny and grabs them."

King also said there was no evidence that his client had been rummaging around or was carrying something, like a bag, to indicate he had wanted to steal anything of value.

"Had we had facts of a bag or rummaging, that would obviously make the case better," admitted prosecutor Raul Jacobson. "But that does not negate the fact that this is still a burglary. The defendant took keys from inside that home. He was not allowed to be inside."

Judge Thomas Stevens ultimately held Johnson to answer on the burglary charge as well as the allegation that someone was present at the time of the crime.

"There is at least one very thin interpretation of the evidence that supports the allegation," Stevens acknowledged.

He also said he wasn't sure if the charge would hold up as the case went forward because the standard of proof would be higher during trial.

"The defendant would have a field day with the jury instructions," Stevens said.

Before leaving, defendant Johnson asked the judge if he might be released on his own recognizance that day.

"Not today," Stevens told him. "Good luck to you, though."

Johnson was on pretrial release in lewd conduct case

Johnson is also facing misdemeanor allegations from April involving indecent exposure and lewd conduct.

In that incident, from April 7, police said a father with two children, ages 8 and 17, had seen a man later identified as Johnson in the roadway near College Avenue and Derby Street, according to charging papers.

They said Johnson had "used his hand to touch his penis as if he was masturbating and was 'shaking' it in every direction." The area, BPD noted, was "next to a theatre where children often are."

Police asked for standard bail in that case because Johnson "was exposing himself with juveniles near by that saw him." Johnson was also the suspect who attacked a bus driver in March, BPD wrote.

On April 10, Johnson was released on his own recognizance by Judge Pelayo Llamas Jr. and ordered to appear in court May 15.

The alleged burglary on Hillegass happened while Johnson was on pretrial release for the indecent exposure matter.

As of this week, Johnson remains in custody, according to booking records. He is scheduled for a jury trial July 29.

The Berkeley Scanner is 100% member-supported. That means no ads, no spam and no distractions. Help ensure timely, accurate public safety news for Berkeley by signing up now.