People's Park Tree-Sitter Booked on Suspicion of Attempted Murder

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Correction Appended

UCPD officers have arrested a People's Park tree-sitter on suspicion of attempted murder following an incident last night in which he allegedly attacked another man with a knife while still in his tree.

Park tree-sitter Matthew Dodt, also known as "Midnight Matt," willingly climbed down from the tree where he had been posted for 89 days at about 3:15 a.m. Friday after officers had begun to move in to remove him from the tree, according to UCPD Capt. Margo Bennett. She said that Dodt was arrested at the scene for attempted homicide and booked at the Alameda County Jail.

Bennett said that, earlier that evening, officers from UCPD responded to the park at about 9:15 p.m. upon hearing reports that Dodt had assaulted someone with a knife. Officers contacted the victim and a witness at the scene, who said that Dodt had invited them up into the tree before attempting to "cut (the victim's) neck," according to Bennett. She said the victim sustained an injury to his hand after blocking the blow to his neck and was taken to a local hospital for treatment.

At about 9:30 p.m. that night in an interview with The Daily Californian while still perched in his tree, Dodt said that four men had approached the tree just after 9 p.m., making threats and claiming they would burn the tree down and "end this tree sit."

Dodt said that when one of the men - who he said smelled of liquor - began to climb up the tree, Dodt took out his knife and climbed down a few feet to a wooden platform, which he has been using as part of the tree sit.

"He got his hand cut," Dodt said at the scene.

Dodt said that the cut did not appear to be "that bad," and that he "didn't see blood at all."

He added that the men, who he said may live in the west end of the park, scattered after the altercation. Dodt's tree is in the east end.

There appeared to be a bloodstain about 8 inches in diameter on the Haste Street sidewalk near the basketball court in the park. At about 9:30 p.m. firefighters from the Berkeley Fire Department poured a clear liquid out of unmarked containers on the stain. The basketball court sits approximately 300 feet from Dodt's tree.

By about 9:30 p.m. Thursday, one fire engine, one ambulance, at least seven police squad vehicles and at least 15 officers from both UCPD and the Berkeley Police Department were at the park. The ambulance left without sirens by 10 p.m.

At approximately 9:45 p.m., a few UCPD officers marked off the area surrounding the tree while other officers searched the area with flashlights and a black light.

Fifteen minutes later, two officers were on the park's basketball court talking with another man who appeared to have his hand bandaged. The man shouted that his hand was "cut to the bone."

According to Bennett, Dodt refused officers' requests that he come down from the tree until about 3:15 a.m. At that point, she said, officers had already begun to move in with ladders and a bucket truck to remove Dodt from the tree.

"Dodt's been in the tree for a while, and he's been a rather benign presence. We had made the decision to not create controversy by forcing Mr. Dodt down from the tree," Bennett said this morning. "But this activity took his presence there to another level. We made the decision that he had to come out of the tree, that he was a potential public threat."

Stephanie Baer of The Daily Californian contributed to this report.

Tags: PEOPLE'S PARK, UCPD, BERKELEY POLICE DEPARTMENT, MIDNIGHT MATT

Correction: Tuesday, February 1, 2011
A previous version of this article misspelled Matthew Dodt's name. A previous version of this article also incorrectly stated that the victim had been taken to a local hospital for treatment of his injuries. In fact, he was treated at the scene.

The Daily Californian regrets the error.

Sarah Springfield is the city news editor. Contact her at [email protected]



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