Man in critical condition after Downtown Berkeley assault

Berkeley Police Department/Courtesy

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A man is in critical condition after being violently beaten with a crowbar early Wednesday morning in Downtown Berkeley.

About 12:45 a.m., Berkeley Police Department responded to multiple reports of violent assault at the northeast corner of Shattuck Avenue and Center Street. The suspect fled the scene in a sports utility vehicle as police officers approached and, after a high-speed chase, struck a tree in North Berkeley, shearing open the right side of the car, according to a BPD press release. The suspect was taken into custody on suspicion of attempted murder after he tried to flee on foot.

The victim, a 41-year-old Oakland man whose name has not been released, suffered life-threatening injuries and was taken to a local hospital, according to police.

Witnesses recounted a gruesome scene that left bystanders in shock. Mateen Habib, a bar manager at Jupiter tavern, described the incident as “animalistic.”

“What was really disturbing was that this guy was down, unconscious, and continued to get beaten up,” Habib said. “That, to me, passes to a whole new level of inhumanity.”

Police said the suspect stopped to break a passing motorist’s window and then continued to beat the victim. Witnesses reported seeing the suspect strike the victim at least 10 times.

Habib recalled another witness screaming for the suspect to stop beating the victim and for someone to shoot the suspect.

“I kept yelling,” Habib said. “ ‘The cops are coming, man, the cops are coming. They’re on their way, they’re on their way, you’d better stop.’ And he just didn’t seem to care. He just stood there and casually walked into the car and casually drove.”

As squad cars approached the scene, police said the suspect fled west on Center Street, striking a responding police car in the southbound lane of Martin Luther King Jr. Way.

The man then fled north, leading to a high-speed pursuit, police said. Officers lost sight of the suspect’s vehicle due to its high speed but found it had collided with a tree on The Alameda north of Hopkins Street.

Police apprehended 54-year-old Duane Nailor of Texas in connection with the assault. Nailor is being treated at a local hospital for nonlife-threatening injuries sustained in the crash.

Most witnesses of the assault initially assumed the victim had died, Habib said.

“Someone was there holding him,” Habib said. “And he said, ‘He’s breathing, he’s alive.’ ”

An ambulance was on the scene of the assault within minutes, according to witnesses.

The Alameda near Hopkins was closed for several hours after the collision but is now open to traffic.

An investigation is ongoing. BPD has not released information regarding the circumstances leading up to the attack.

Chris Yoder covers crime. Contact him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @christiancyoder.