Trespasser Kills Berkeley Hills Resident, Suspect Arrested

A trespasser killed a Berkeley man outside his home at Shasta Road and Grizzly Peak Boulevard Saturday night, and a suspect was arrested less than a block away, police said.

Police in Berkeley are investigating a homicide that took place in the city on Saturday night.

Officers responded to a home near Shasta Road and Grizzly Peak Boulevard after a woman called to report a suspicious person trespassing near her garage, according to Berkeley police.

The woman's husband reportedly went outside to confront the suspect when he was assaulted, police said. The man was treated at the scene by the first police officer before being taken to a local trauma center by Berkeley Fire Department paramedics, police said. He was pronounced dead at the hospital.

Berkeley police have not released the victim's identity, but the San Francisco Chronicle reported that according to property records and neighbors, Peter Cukor, 67, owned the home where the slaying occurred

San Francisco Chronicle reported that the victim first called a non-emergency line, but that no officers responded because they were tied up monitoring Occupy protests. The victim's wife dialed 911 after she heard him cry for help and saw the suspect hitting him on the head with a potted plant. 

While officers were conducting an investigation in the neighborhood where the alleged assault occurred, a man was seen in the area who matched the suspect description. Daniel Jordan Dewitt, 23, of Alameda, was detained and subsequently arrested for murder, police said. Dewitt is scheduled to be arraigned on Wednesday.

Daniel Dewitt's mother, Candy Dewitt, told the San Francisco Chronicle, that her son had a history of mental illness. He is the grandson of Albert Dewitt, Alameda's first African-American mayor. 

The killing marks Berkeley's second homicide of 2012. 

Anyone who might have information regarding the case is asked to contact Berkeley police at (510) 981-5741.

Bay City News contributed to this report. 

Jason February 20, 2012 at 02:13 AM
RIP...I hope they got the right guy and he gets a long long sentence.
Shelby Sampson February 20, 2012 at 02:35 AM
The neighborhood where I grew up, so carefree, in the '50s. Whew.
Tanya Jo Miller February 20, 2012 at 05:38 AM
Yes, so sad!
Paul D February 20, 2012 at 03:32 PM
"Police in Berkeley are investigating a homicide that took place in the city on Saturday night." Police are investigating a homicide because they chose NOT to investigate a suspicious person trespassing on private property as called in by the victim. It turned into a homicide after department personnel overrode an officers attempt to respond.
Jessica King February 20, 2012 at 05:22 PM
Two blocks from my folks and JUST around the corner from the FD... Being that there have been sooo many break ins, attacks and car jackings in the Kensington/El Cerrito Hills, you'd think the cops would have responded faster... So sad.
Tammy February 20, 2012 at 05:45 PM
The truth is the Berkeley Police wanted to investigate the 911 call, but the police dispatcher told the policeman to continue his assignment at the latest Occupy Protest. This is insane.
Deborah February 20, 2012 at 06:04 PM
More information here this morning: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2012/02/20/BAFU1N9T8J.DTL&tsp=1
Ron February 20, 2012 at 07:39 PM
Direct blame should go to the police captain who's men are sworn to protect and serve (not that they rarely ever are available). Absolute shame on the occupy idiots that keep tying up the police manpower we do have with all their BS antics, all of which lost any momentum and respect long ago.
Tanya Jo Miller February 20, 2012 at 10:00 PM
@Deborah -- thanks for the article, I actually posted it to the site!
albert franck February 20, 2012 at 11:30 PM
Peter Cukor was a friend and a good human being. I'll miss him terribly. Love, Al
Brad S. February 21, 2012 at 05:25 AM
This is such a tragedy and my thought and prayers are with the family. That said, a few posts seem to suggest that the Berkeley Police didn't respond appropriately. As a listener to the BPD on-air transmissions, I can say nothing could be further from the truth. First, unless the BPD is completely preoccupied, as it sounds was the case on Saturday night, the BPD tends to respond within minutes – even to non-emergency calls. It is rare that a response takes more then 5 minutes, which is far better than what you'd have to experience in other cities like SF, LA, SD, or Oakland. The BPD takes all "SusPer", or Suspicious Persons, calls seriously, it doesn't matter where you live in Berkeley. By the time they arrivem the person has moved on and is "GOA" – Gone on Arrival. Remember, in this case, first phone call was a non-life threatening SusPer call made to the non-emergency line. What this means is that from the Dispatcher's perspective, something was more likely to occur along the Occupy movement path than on a SusPer call in the Berkeley Hills. Statistically speaking, that's true. But keep in mind that the BPD responds to everything – even the people who dial 911 (presumably by mistake) and hang up, or "butt dial" 911 on their cell phones. All of these end up getting a BPD response and are almost always a waste of officer time. Yet, the BPD responds to every single one. The blame here belongs with the suspect and with those who waste BPD time (Occupy).
Brad S. February 21, 2012 at 05:32 AM
A few more details are on the sister-site from El Cerrito: http://elcerrito.patch.com/articles/saturday-berkeley-slaying-updates-berkeley-police-address-questions-suspect-is-grandson-of-former-city-councilman-from-alamedaalameda-on-their-response-in-saturday-slaying
Shelby Sampson February 21, 2012 at 06:18 AM
Thanks, Brad, for putting the police situation in perspective. We have an exceptionally good police department here, and I hate to see certain people take a tragedy like this murder and co-opt it in order to make the police look like the bad guys. (Which is right up there with what most of the Occupy people are now doing with the initially excellent protest activity.)
Paul D February 21, 2012 at 01:43 PM
Ah yes, Brad S has the buzzwords down pat. Seemingly convincing and it makes Brad S seem like actually has insider information with 'SusPers'... and 'GOA'. I think you've seen too many episodes of 'Law & Order' and spent WAY too much time on the scanner. The fault is not with Occupy.. this is simply a convenient scapegoat with 'join the hue and cry' political overtones. BPD has a primary obligation to protect and serve the citizens of the city of Berkeley. If they cannot perform their task, then sending cops to Oakland to join in the suppression of lawful dissent was a mistake. If a BPD supervisor called off an officer who volunteered to respond to this tragic murder that was a mistake also. The blame here is shared.. the suspect and with those members of the BPD who cannot properly define their departments priorities. It has nothing to do with the scapegoat of the day, Occupy.
Brad S. February 21, 2012 at 03:25 PM
@Paul, you are absolutely correct – the goal of the BPD is to protect and serve. But this situation here is analogous to being a single parent and have two kids who are separated in age by 2 years. When one is graduating with her masters degree, the other is graduating with his bachelors degree. The problem is that both graduate on the same day and at the same time. Which graduation do you attend? This is the problem the the BPD faced on Saturday night – two events happening at the same time. Yes, one kid will be upset because the parent wasn't able to be there. But, remember, for the most part such conflicts do not exist. You can be successful as a single parent even though such conflicts occasionally happen. The same goes for the staffing levels of the BPD. Lastly, the dispatcher did not call off an officer responding to an in-progress assault. When the caller made the 911 call reporting the assault, I think the facts will show that the BPD responded within minutes of that emergency call. On the original call, the dispatcher directed the officer to stay on assignment, which, as I mentioned, had a higher probability of incident than a non-emergency suspicious person in the Hills who would like be GOA upon arrival. You can read more about the police response on the El Cerrito Patch site (see my post below). @Paul, you seem to want to blame the BPD, but the facts in this situation, along with the known behavior of the BPD, do not support your position.
Tanya Jo Miller February 21, 2012 at 08:59 PM
All very interesting comments, in fact so interesting I wrote up a blog post about it yesterday: http://berkeley.patch.com/articles/reader-comments-on-the-saturday-s-murder-in-the-berkeley-hills#comments_list
Charles Burress (Editor) February 22, 2012 at 08:42 AM
Late today Berkeley police provided further details on on the timeline: "At approximately 8:45 PM, BPD received a report of a suspicious person possibly trespassing. The caller reported an encounter with an unknown person “hanging around” his property, and asked that an officer be sent to investigate. This call for service was queued for dispatch. "At that time, available Patrol teams were being reconfigured in order to monitor a protest march which was to come into Berkeley from Oakland in the next hour. Only criminal, in-progress emergency calls were to be dispatched, due to the reduction in officers available to handle calls for service. Concerns about the potential for violence associated with the march resulted in plans to allocate officers to monitor the march. "At approximately 9:00 PM, an officer, seeing several pending calls for service, including two “suspicious circumstances”, offered to respond to either of the calls. The officer’s offer was declined, as only in-progress emergency calls were to be dispatched. "Two minutes later, at approximately 9:02 PM, BPD received a phone call reporting an attack in progress. The previous call information was updated and officers were dispatched within one minute. Officers were cleared to proceed using their emergency lights and sirens to the Park Gate location. "The first officer broadcast arrival on scene in the northeastern hill neighborhood within five minutes of being dispatched."
Brad S. February 22, 2012 at 01:58 PM
@Charles, thank you for reporting the information Accurately. This is a tragic event - for everyone involved.
Hank February 23, 2012 at 03:18 AM
The 'occupy idiots' were not breaking any laws! The prowler in the hills was trespassing. That's breaking the law. The cops should investigate an actual crime in progress, no matter how minor it may seem, before they waste taxpayer money 'monitoring' law abiding citizens. In fact, I think a society in which police deliberately spend more of their resources on monitoring ordinary citizens than they do on dealing with actual crime is a pretty good definition of a 'police state'.


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