2 UC Berkeley students sustain head injuries after alleged fraternity parking lot fight

Zeta Psi
Michael Drummond/Senior Staff

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After an alleged fight outside a fraternity, two UC Berkeley students — one who is currently recovering at a local hospital — sustained head injuries after they were allegedly hit in the head with a baseball bat.

Early Sunday morning, a physical altercation erupted in the Zeta Psi parking lot between two groups of men, according to a Berkeley Police Department affidavit. UC Berkeley sophomore Thayer White sustained a serious brain bruise and small skull fracture, according to a post by his mother, Michele White, on a webpage she created. UC Berkeley junior Benjamin Calder, who suffered less severe injuries, was recently released from the hospital.

Toward the end of a party at Zeta Psi, a fraternity that has not been recognized by the campus since 2010, three young men unaffiliated with the campus were ordered to leave the fraternity house because they did not know a Zeta Psi brother, according to a source who wished to remain anonymous because he identified a suspect. Two of the men were forcefully removed, while one left willingly.

Once the three men were escorted out of the house into the Zeta Psi parking lot, tension grew and a verbal altercation ensued among the three men and several UC Berkeley students. The verbal argument soon turned into a physical fight during which punches were exchanged, the affidavit said.

According to the affidavit, the fight was between a group of white men and a group of black men. BPD spokesperson Officer Jennifer Coats, however, said in an email that investigators do not currently believe race was a factor. The investigation is still underway.

At some point during the fight, a silver hatchback pulled into the parking lot, and a man exited the car. The man proceeded to retrieve a baseball bat from the suspect vehicle’s trunk.

White, who is a member of Zeta Psi, approached the man, who then allegedly struck White in the head with the bat. Calder, also a member of the fraternity, then approached White, who was unconscious. The man who allegedly struck White then allegedly hit Calder in the head with the bat and drove away, according to court documents. White and Calder both immediately collapsed to the ground after they were hit.

Bystanders were able to snap pictures of the suspect vehicle’s license plate number, and police arrived on scene about 1:30 a.m. One of the officers was advised that the suspect vehicle had fled southbound on Piedmont Avenue and proceeded to pursue the vehicle. The officer conducted a stop near Warring and Parker streets and broadcasted that the front passenger had fled the vehicle going west on Parker Street.

The source who wished to remain anonymous accompanied police to identify the vehicle. From the back of the police car, he identified the suspect, the suspect vehicle and the baseball bat. Police searched for the passenger but were unable to locate him.

Oakland resident Frank Watson, 23, was charged Monday with two counts of attempted murder and two counts of assault with a deadly weapon, according to court documents.

Both victims were transported to a local hospital by emergency medical personnel. According to Charlie Terris, a UC Berkeley sophomore and president of Zeta Psi, Calder was recently released from the hospital with severe facial fractures but is mobile.

“Ben has since been released from the hospital with pretty severe facial fractures, but is in good spirit, smiling and laughing like he always seems to be,” Terris said in an email.

White suffered more serious head trauma, Terris said. It is currently unknown whether White will be able to return to UC Berkeley to finish out the semester.

“As a house we are devastated and send our love to Thayer and his family,” Terris said in an email. “We will certainly have to take the appropriate actions to ensure better safety of our members.”

Michele White created a webpage dedicated to her son on CaringBridge.org so that friends and family can send their thoughts and get updates on White’s condition. On Monday, she posted that the language center of her son’s brain was affected and that he could not communicate thoroughly.

Watson has a prior arrest history for weapon-related charges, according to the affidavit. He is also on active probation.

Watson is currently being held in Santa Rita Jail without bail. His plea hearing will be Friday at 9 a.m. in the Wiley W. Manuel Courthouse in Oakland.

 

Contact Becca Benham at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @beccabenhamdc.