Booked for assault with a deadly weapon, having posted $30,000 bail, a Berkeley man awaits an April 3 court date after doing something with his .357 magnum handgun to a recycling scavenger who trespassed on his property. His account of what happened differs from the scavenger's.
In his statement to investigators, the Berkeleyite said his barking dogs woke him in his cottage in the predawn dark between 5 and 6 a.m. on March 15. Concerned for the safety of his wife and ten-week-old baby, he looked out a window and saw a stranger opening the gate in a fence shielding the property. The Berkeleyite said he took his legally registered revolver outside and ordered the stranger onto the ground. He admitted cursing at the stranger and, according to police records, "poking him with the gun" but not pistol-whipping him before the stranger stood and fled.
The stranger, an Oakland resident, reported the incident about three hours later. He told Berkeley police that while collecting recyclable cans and bottles along residential Shattuck Avenue near Ashby Avenue, he had entered a trash-collection area through a gate in a fence but, unnerved at hearing dogs bark, "turned and walked out ... to the sidewalk," only to hear a man calling him back. He said the man pointed a gun at him while declaring repeatedly, "I'll kill you, I'll blow your head off," ordered him to lay face down on the driveway, and "started beating me on the back of my head with his gun." Noting lacerations and swelling on the scavenger's head, and ascertaining the address and the resident's identity, investigators assembled a photo lineup including the resident, whom the scavenger positively identified. Upon his arrest, the resident waived his Miranda rights and relinquished his Smith & Wesson revolver, loaded with seven rounds.
"If I was a police officer, I would have arrested the intruder," says Sam Paredes, executive director of Gun Owners of California. In his 28 years with the lobbying group, Paredes has heard of almost no cases involving homeowners, guns, and trespassers in which the homeowner is the one charged with a crime. "California protects the homeowner more" than other states, he says; "private citizens here have the right to defend themselves against uninvited intruders" because "there's a presumption that the intruder was there to create bodily harm." If this confrontation had occurred inside the cottage, police probably "could not have arrested the homeowner even if he had shot" the scavenger, Paredes says. But ... outside?
Shades of gray. According to the law, "you have to be defending your property or yourself," says Alameda County Assistant District Attorney Tom Rogers. "And you have to use reasonable force. When the danger has abated, you can't use force."
Non-matching narratives also mark the March 21 Fremont road-rage case for which Andrew Asiasi, Leaututu Asiasi, and Wesley Hisatake were arrested after allegedly cracking a man's skull and breaking his wife's arm in front of their two daughters. According to Fremont police, the men claim their Ford Explorer was hit by a bottle on Highway 880, then cut off by the family's Chevy Suburban. The family claim that the trio tailed them before both cars pulled over. A beating ensued. On her MySpace page, last logged into last year, Hisatake's wife calls him "the most caring and responsible husband" and declares: "Not a day goes by that I don't give praise to our heavenly father for his continuance to bestow his unconditional love over my family and I. His love is what we use as our shelter through trials & tribulations." Trials is right.
"LEAVE TOWN" was among the fighting words that Apprehension saw chalked onto the sidewalk outside a North Berkeley house after animal-rights activists targeted the homes of UC Berkeley researchers — yet again — on Easter Sunday. Also chalked around this house in seasonal pastels was the scientist's name along with "GREEDY KILLER," "RAPIST," and "THE MAN WHO LIVES HERE KILLS ANIMALS AND HAS SEX WITH LITTLE KIDS." At Indymedia.org, one demonstrator called it "a positive day" and recounted informing a family that "their neighbor has drilled holes in the skulls of hamsters, tortured squirrels with the use of stereotaxic devices and poisoned them to death at the end of their hellish lives for completely worthless behavioral research."
Also on Easter, ten minutes before the Solano Avenue Andronico's 10 p.m. closing time, a masked gunman made off with $1,300, according to the police log. During a previous heist at the same store, thieves got over $10,000.
You know that Simpsons episode in which Bart, Nelson, and Milhouse go around Springfield painting house numbers on curbs, then demanding that homeowners pay them for it? Two middle-aged guys tried it in Martinez on March 20. According to the police log, one homeowner called the cops, who booked both men for vagrancy.
Thanks for nothin'
The mood at Berkeley's Cafe Gratitude — whose menu offers such items as I Am Generous (guacamole), I Am Prosperous (arugula salad), I Am Elated (enchilada), and I Am Extra Cheerful (nut burger) — might be a teensy bit less generous, prosperous, elated, and cheerful following a March 22 theft in which a man nabbed about $300 from the front-counter tip jar.
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