Berkeley PD: Pedestrian killed by fleeing driver was transient woman

A pedestrian was killed during a UC Berkeley police pursuit. Jan. 20, 2020

A 58-year-old female pedestrian struck and killed by a car that drove onto a University Avenue sidewalk while fleeing UC Berkeley police Monday morning was a transient, police said on Tuesday. 

A UC Berkeley police officer heard screaming and saw a man “violently assaulting” a woman in a parked vehicle, which led to a chase and the eventual death of the unidentified woman who was walking across the street, a sergeant said Tuesday.

UC Berkeley Police Sgt. Sabrina Reich told KTVU that as the officer approached the vehicle on Monday about 10:30 a.m. in front of a church at Sixth Street and University Avenue, the driver of the gray four-door sedan took off. 

She confirmed that the pursuit began on Sixth Street north of University but eventually crossed University southbound as the chase unfolded in the neighborhood. 

Berkeley Police Officer Byron White said the driver headed northbound on Sixth and made a wide left turn onto University, ending up on the sidewalk, where the sedan struck the woman who was pronounced dead. The Alameda County Coroner had not yet identified the woman on Tuesday morning and had yet to notify next of kin. 

UC Berkeley police's policy on pursuits states that “vehicular pursuits require officers to exhibit a high degree of common sense and sound judgment. Officers must not forget that the immediate apprehension of a suspect is generally not more important than the safety of the public and pursuing officers.” 

The policy does state that officers may initiate a pursuit when the violator is believed to be  violent and poses a significant threat to the public. And the policy also states that an officer should take into the seriousness of the suspected crime and “its relationship to community safety.” Officers get annual training on this policy, Reich said. 

She added that the officer who initiated the pursuit has not been put on leave.

The driver of the gray sedan has not yet been found.