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Sleuthing Staffer Helps UC Police Apprehend Suspect in Assault

By D. Lyn Hunter, Public Affairs
Posted September 1, 1999

A mild-mannered campus staff person transformed herself into a heroic crime-fighter Aug. 17, helping police arrest a man who committed a brutal assualt.

The trouble started when Natalie (not her real name), heard shouting from her third-floor office on the west side of campus. She looked out the window and saw two men in the middle of a busy Berkeley street.

"They were yelling at each other," said Natalie. "I don't know what they were arguing about, but one guy was walking backward and the other was in his face."

Suddenly, a third man entered the fracas. "He approached the man who was walking backward and hit him in the head so hard his feet left the pavement," she said. "He was out cold for several minutes. I thought he was dead."

Natalie immediately called 911 and waited in her office for an ambulance to arrive. As a crowd gathered down on the street, Natalie's co-worker, who was also watching from her window, saw the perpetrator slowly move away from the scene.

Assuming the police would be there any second, Natalie ran down to the street to identify the attacker for officers. Instead, there were no police present and the suspect was headed toward campus. Worried he was going to get away, she instinctively started following him.

"My heart was pounding, but I wasn't afraid," said Natalie. "I just felt so strongly that this person should not get away with what he did."

Staying 25 to 30 feet behind the suspect, Natalie watched as he strolled east on Campus Drive, then cut over towards the Life Science Annex.

She was about to lose sight of the suspect when she saw a "code blue" safety station. She picked up the receiver, pressed a button and was immediately connected to the UC Police Department. The dispatcher said she would send someone out immediately.

Natalie continued to follow the suspect, who was headed towards a teeming Sproul Plaza. Just then, she saw a UC Police bicycle officer riding her way. Natalie flagged him down and pointed out the suspect, hiding behind a bush while the officer made the arrest.

Natalie returned to her office but found it empty; her worried co-workers had gone off looking for her. When they got back and saw Natalie sitting at her desk, they clapped and cheered, then listened raptly as she recounted her adventure.

The man who was assaulted was taken to Alta Bates hospital, treated and released.

"This incident hits close to home for me," said Natalie. "My brother-in-law was attacked and suffered a head injury that ruined his life."

Natalie credits the campus safety station with making the apprehension of the suspect possible. UC Police and Parking and Transportation installed the stations in spring 1998 to increase safety on campus.

"The stations help with the reporting of crimes and getting assistance to victims," said Capt. William Cooper of UC Police. "But they are also a visible sign of the campus's commitment to fighting crime, which will hopefully deter criminals from coming to campus.

"It was very courageous thing for (Natalie) to do," said Officer Washington Davis, who investigated the crime for the Berkeley Police Department. "Most people don't want to get involved, so I commend her for her bravery."


September 1 - 7, 1999 (Volume 28, Number 4)
Copyright 1999, The Regents of the University of California.
Produced and maintained by the Office of Public Affairs at UC Berkeley.
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