Student’s threats to shoot UC Berkeley staff led to lockdown

A 39-year-old student in a UC Berkeley program for formerly incarcerated people threatened to shoot at least two staff members last week after he was suspended from school, court records show.

The threats, which appeared in an April 21 email to UC Berkeley staff members, according to the University of California Police Department, prompted a campus-wide lockdown on Thursday.

On Monday, the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office charged Hayward’s Lamar Bursey with two counts of criminally threatening two UC Berkeley staff members. The San Francisco Chronicle was first to report the arrest.

According to court and UCPD records, Bursey had been suspended from college after causing a disturbance on campus on the morning of April 14 at the Valley Life Science Building and the Martin Luther King Jr. Student Union.

Few details of the incidents have been released, but the UCPD told Berkeleyside that Bursey threatened a UC Berkeley staff member that day.

Last week, authorities say, the situation escalated when Bursey sent an email shortly before 6 a.m. saying he would come into the office that day and planned to cause harm.

“Stop messing with me,” he wrote, according to court documents. “Depending on who I think was helping or not, 2 people on that email will get shot.”

The UCPD said one of the people who received the email “was in fear for his life and the lives of others”. He told his boss that he would not return to campus until the situation was resolved.

Another staff member was also concerned, according to court records, and “thought she would be shot by BURSEY if she came to work. Out of fear for her safety, she did not enter the office.

UC Berkeley closed the campus Thursday morning, canceling all classes and advising members of the community not to go out while authorities try to find Bursey.

He was in Oakland at the Summit campus of Alta Bates Summit Medical Center early Thursday afternoon and was “arrested without incident,” according to court documents. Authorities did not share details about how they found Bursey or why he was in the hospital.

As of this week, Bursey is still being held in Santa Rita Jail and is due to appear Monday for a plea hearing, according to court records. No deposit amount is indicated.

“The safety of the campus community was our top priority throughout this incident,” UCPD Lt. Sabrina Reich said Wednesday in Berkeleyside. “Thanks to the efforts of our officers and other campus coordination units, we were able to safely resolve the situation with no injuries.”

Bursey had been a transfer student in UC Berkeley’s Underground Scholars program, according to a 2021 study of worker-led research he contributed to. When the study was published last year, he was a second-year transfer student majoring in sociology.

He has also “worked as Outreach Coordinator and Deputy Board Director for Reentry Services” and “has experience in retail, sales and warehouse operations,” according to his bio. in the report.

UC Berkeley had removed Bursey’s biography from its website — along with the biographies of other Underground Scholars “ambassadors” — effective this week.

But, according to a cached version of the biography available via Google search, Bursey became a student at Laney College in 2016 and then joined UC Berkeley’s Underground Scholars program in the spring of 2017. He “began working as an ambassador ; identify formerly incarcerated students on campus and provide them with resources to successfully transfer to UC Berkeley” and other UC campuses.

As described by UC Berkeley, the Underground Scholars program aims to build a “prison-to-college pipeline through recruitment, retention, and advocacy.”

According to court records, prior to this week, Bursey had faced charges in 10 criminal cases in Alameda County between 2003 and 2015. Most of the cases were related to property and crime offenses. drugs, including DUI. Several cases also included misdemeanor battery charges.

The UC Berkeley Chancellor’s Independent Advisory Board on Police Accountability and Community Safety is scheduled to hold a forum at 5 p.m. Wednesday on the events of the past week.

“We know it impacted everyone, was stressful and disruptive, and may have been activated for people who have experienced threats, violence or similar circumstances in the past. . We are proud of our peers and colleagues who responded in a spirit of community and caring by sheltering with each other, being on call and in emergency meetings for hours, and watching over their colleagues and friends. ”, according to the description of the event.

“We know that expertise in safety, justice, belonging and well-being resides in every corner of campus and is rooted in people’s lived experiences and professional, community and academic experiences. This meeting aims to recognize and develop this expertise,” the description continues.

The board said it plans to use the forum’s inputs to make recommendations related to “crisis prevention, response and messaging moving forward.”

Berkeleyside added additional details to the story right after the post regarding Bursey’s background as well as the UC Berkeley forum. Featured photo credit: Jérôme Paulos