BERKELEY — Two men were in custody after surveillance camera footage helped lead to their arrests last week on suspicion of vandalism in connection with a neighborhood tire-slashing and spray-painting spree.
Just before 6:50 a.m. June 28, police responded to the 2400 block of Hillside Avenue for a report of overnight vandalism. Officers learned a person walked out to his car around 6:30 a.m. and found his car spray-painted, before noticing his partner’s car and other neighbors’ cars had also been sprayed.
Police found a total of 13 victims with spray-painted vehicles and gates, all in black paint with anti-police slogans, “Class war,” and the anarchist-A symbol.
Two hours later, just before 9 a.m., police responded to another vandalism report on the 2300 block of Prospect Street. On that block, about 600 feet away from Hillside, officers found 10 cars with slashed tires. Another call just after 11:15 a.m. yielded seven more vehicles with slashed tires in the 2400 block of Prospect. Those cars, found in a fraternity house parking lot, had anti-fraternity graffiti in black spray paint on them, police said.
Later that day, a university dormitory at Dana and Durant streets was found vandalized with red and pink spray-paint reading “Antifa,” as well as anti-police and anti-gentrification graffiti, and a white commercial van parked nearby had “Kill yuppies” sprayed in pink paint on it. Staff at the Clark Kerr Campus dorm also found black spray-painted graffiti reading “Kill the rich” and “eat the rich.”
In following days, businesses and property owners reported other similar red- and pink-painted graffiti in nearby blocks of Dwight Way and Dana and Ellsworth streets.
Berkeley police investigators’ work led them to the detention of two men initially found hiding behind a parked car around 3 a.m. June 28 in the 2300 block of Warring Street, near Hillside and Prospect.
At the time, officers were investigating a report of a hot-prowl burglary, police said. One man, Peter Estrada, had black spray-paint cans and pink, red and black paint stains on his hands, while Ismael Chamu had pink and black paint stained hands and a paint-can lid in his pocket, police said.
Police, who were not aware of the other graffiti incidents at the time, took pictures of Chamu and Estrada, as well as black-spray-painted graffiti reading “Kill sexists” on a nearby building wall. Officers arrested Chamu for possession of a spring-blade knife, but he was not charged and was later released, while Estrada was detained and later released.
Chamu, identified as a UC Berkeley senior, spoke about his arrest to the Daily Cal student newspaper on July 5, alleging police harassment and racial profiling.
Investigators’ review of surveillance cameras outside the UC dormitory at Dana and Durant streets yielded footage of two males spray-painting the commercial van and a street sign, as well as construction barriers, around 2:05 to 2:10 a.m. June 28. Officers were able to identify Chamu and Estrada, based on clothing, build and distinct features, police said.
After a judge issued warrants for their arrests July 7, Chamu was arrested around 9 p.m. Thursday in San Francisco while Estrada was arrested around 5 p.m. Friday in Berkeley.
Both were booked into Berkeley City Jail on suspicion of possession of vandalism tools and vandalism causing over $400 in damage. They have a 9 a.m. plea hearing Tuesday at Oakland’s Rene C. Davidson Alameda County courthouse, according to county records.
Staff writer Harry Harris contributed to this report. Contact George Kelly at 408-859-5180.