Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Many Witnesses Saw Berkeley Man's Murder

Tue, May 13, 2008 at 11:34 PM

A man whom the Oakland Tribune is identifying as Maceo Smith and who according to the Berkeley Police Department was thirty years old died of multiple gunshot wounds just before 4 p.m. today in a parking lot just east of the Top Dog restaurant on Durant Avenue just below Bowditch Street.On the scene two hours later, Apprehension ran into an old acquaintance who works nearby but did not want his name to appear in the paper. He claimed to have seen the immediate aftermath of the shooting, and to have seen someone departing the scene in a suspicious manner that left him wondering what role this individual might have played in the crime.

A man whom the Oakland Tribune is identifying as Maceo Smith and who according to the Berkeley Police Department was thirty years old died of multiple gunshot wounds just before 4 p.m. today in a parking lot just east of the Top Dog restaurant on Durant Avenue near Bowditch Street. An altercation near the Berkeley Art Museum preceded the shooting, police have said.

On the scene two hours after the shooting, Apprehension ran into an old acquaintance who works nearby but did not want his name to appear in the paper. He claimed to have seen the immediate aftermath of the crime, and to have seen someone departing the scene in a suspicious manner that left him wondering what role this individual might have played in the crime.

As he also told police investigators, the local employee said he was indoors when he heard the sound of gunshots, then stepped outside onto Durant to see numerous pedestrians ducking for cover. (It was a busy afternoon near campus, with many new graduates strolling in caps and gowns.) He saw a man with what looked a bloodstain high up on his white shirt staggering westward down Durant, appearing to fumble with something in the area of his hip pocket. He also saw, in the parking lot, a frantic woman apparently trying to help a man. As others approached and joined the effort, the local employee rushed back to his workplace and called the police.

Others had already begun calling, according to Sgt. Mary Kusmiss. The first call came around 3:50 p.m. from someone reporting "a man with a gun," she said. Another caller minutes later reported a shooting. At least a dozen witnesses were on the scene; from their accounts, Kusmiss said, police have been able to conclude that a "verbal exchange" between shooter and victim precipitated the killing.

The victim died of multiple gunshots at the scene: "He collapsed between two parked cars," Kusmiss said. The shooter fled the scene, and police cordoned off a several-block area after having "found items of potential evidentiary value."

A tip about "a silver Cadillac leaving the area" spurred the police to locate this car on Parker Street and begin pursuing it. Despite attempts to pull it over, "the Cadillac failed to yield," Kusmiss said. As the car moved onto Highway 580, officers in pursuit suspected that its driver was rushing to Highland Hospital. They were correct. The Cadillac driver, a man in his late twenties, sought treatment at Highland for a gunshot wound, Kusmiss said. Officers from various agencies had begun interviewing him, although no information has yet been released on whether the Cadillac driver, she said, "is a victim or a suspect."

Having arrived soon after the shooting, many of the victim's friends and relatives watched mournfully from behind police tape hours later as an Alameda County Coroner van arrived just after 7 p.m. to remove the body. It was Berkeley's fifth homicide this year.—Anneli Rufus

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