News in Brief

Nate Tabak covers crime. E-mail him at [email protected].



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City Issues Warning About Wild Mushrooms

Acting out of concern for their health, the city of Berkeley warned its residents Tuesday about the dangers of consuming wild mushrooms.

The warning follows a similar admonition from the state's Department of Health Services.

Lea Brooks, a state spokesperson, said consumers who purchase mushrooms at a legitimate grocery store should consume their favorite fungi without worry.

The city specifically warned residents to be wary of the "death-cap"-a wide, smooth and greenish colored mushroom that caused two reported deaths in Northern California this past decade.

The upcoming rainy season will promote the growth of poisonous mushrooms, the state said.

Berkeley residents, however, have little to fear from poisonous mushrooms, according to Berkeley health specialist Harmindar Sran.

"There were no statistics to indicate that this area had high occurrences of mushroom poisoning cases," she said.

Individuals in high-risk areas such as Presidio Park in San Francisco and Oregon should be cautious before eating wild mushrooms, which can cause abdominal pain, vomiting, liver damage and even death, she said.

If any of these symptoms occur, Berkeley advises individuals call the Poison Control System at

1-800-8-POISON.

Lupe Carrillo

Man Allegedly Flees Police With His Baby

A Berkeley man was arrested yesterday afternoon after he allegedly led police on a foot chase-holding his infant daughter.

The 10-month-old girl was found unharmed in a yard on the 1800 block of Blake Street where Courtney Alford left her during the police pursuit, said Berkeley police Officer Mary Kusmiss.

Alford was found hiding under a nearby house and was arrested without incident, she said.

Alford, 22, took off in his car with the baby after getting into a fight with her mother outside Baja Fresh Mex on Shattuck Avenue about 1:40 a.m., Kusmiss said.

A passerby alerted a Berkeley police officer, inside the restaurant at the time, of the incident.

Police spotted Alford driving on Martin Luther King Jr. Way, but before he could be pulled over, "he just bailed," Kusmiss said. He has a reputation for running from police, she said.

Officers found the baby after hearing her scream. The child was released into her mother's custody.

The mother was not injured in her fight with Alford, Kusmiss said.

Alford was booked on suspicion of child endangerment.

Nate Tabak

Man Robs, Flees Chocolate Company

An armed man netted about $500 in a robbery of a southwest Berkeley chocolate manufacturer Sunday afternoon, police said.

A female employee was restocking shelves inside Scharffenberger Chocolate Maker at 914 Heinz Ave. when a man entered and walked straight to the cash register about 3:40 a.m., said Berkeley police Officer Mary Kusmiss.

The employee asked the man if he needed help, and he replied, "This is a robbery" as he pulled out a silver semiautomatic handgun.

Ordering the woman to the floor and telling her "not to look up," the robber pillaged the cash register, Kusmiss said.

The robber fled in an unknown direction.

Nate Tabak

Man Steals Urinating Friend's Car, Police Say

A homeless man was arrested Sunday night for stealing a car his friend left unattended during a urination break, police said.

Stephen Flegal, 50, and a passenger were arrested in Emeryville after police found them inside the stolen car, said Berkeley police Officer Mary Kusmiss.

Off-duty Berkeley police Sgt. Andrew "Rat" Rateaver spotted the car on the 3200 block of Adeline Street and followed it to Emeryville.

Flegal was sitting in the passenger seat when his friend stopped the car near Alcatraz Avenue and Adeline Street shortly before 7:06 p.m. to urinate in some bushes but left his keys in the ignition, Kusmiss said. When the friend returned to his car, in which he lives, it was gone.

Nate Tabak

Two Robbed in Similar Incidents

Two women were robbed Monday night in similar incidents that occurred less than a mile apart in Berkeley.

The first robbery happened on Derby Street near College Avenue about 10 p.m. A man approached the victim and said, "Give up the money, I have a gun," according to police.

The robber did not take out a gun but stole cash and an ATM card.

Another woman was robbed 35 minutes later as she walked on Shattuck Avenue near Parker Street.

She was approached by two men, one of whom said, "I have a gun, drop your purse," according to police.

Berkeley police Officer Mary Kusmiss said it is "robbery season," and there is no clear link between the two crimes. No arrests have been made.

Nate Tabak

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