This shocking video captures a downtown “ambassador” in Berkeley, Calif., viciously beating a homeless man during an alleyway confrontation.
Two of the Downtown Berkeley Association ambassadors, wearing neon green shirts and caps, confronted two young men about their belongings being kept by a dumpster behind a CVS at Shattuck Ave. and Bancroft Way, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.
The altercation ended with the homeless men, 23-year-old Nathan Swor and 29-year-old James Cocklereese, being booked on a variety of charges. But after police and the nonprofit DBA saw the video, which was released Thursday, ambassador Jeffrey Bailey has been fired and his colleague, Carmen Francois, suspended.
John Caner, CEO of the Downtown Berkeley Association, apologized Thursday for the incident, saying the ambassador accused of throwing punches has been fired and the other has been suspended, pending an investigation.
“As CEO of the Downtown Berkeley Association, I want to personally, and on the behalf of the DBA board and staff, apologize to the victim of this beating, and the entire Berkeley community,” he wrote in a statement.
Already, though, the victim of the attack and his friend, both apparently homeless, were charged with several crimes in connection with the incident, and each pleaded no contest to a single count of misdemeanor battery. Alameda County prosecutors had not seen the video, but a spokeswoman said Thursday that if new evidence was presented they would take it into consideration.
The altercation, brought to light by local news website Berkeleyside, began in an alleyway behind a CVS at the corner of Shattuck Avenue and Bancroft Way the evening of March 19. Two ambassadors — a man and a woman in their signature neon green shirts — attempt to rouse two apparently homeless men.
As the video starts, the ambassadors, identified in court documents as Jeffrey Bailey and Carmen Francois, can be seen trying to get the men to move their belongings near a large trash bin. Bailey and one of the men exchange words, the video shows, before Bailey appears to punch the man in the head.
The man falls to the ground where Bailey appears to continue punching him while Francois appears to prevent the other man from intervening.
As the video ends, the men at the trash bin can be seen gathering their belongings and issuing threats of lawsuits as they leave the alley.
Police who arrived on the scene minutes later arrested the men, identified as Nathan Swor, 23, and James Cocklereese, 29, on suspicion of assault and making criminal threats. The video shows the man who wasn’t punched swinging a pole that appears to have a blade on the end of it.
“Based on the information we were given that night, the two homeless-looking men were arrested,” said Officer Jennifer Coats, a Berkeley police spokeswoman, on Thursday.
However, Coats said, “after we learned of the video yesterday we made sure to pass all of the information along to the district attorney.”
Bailey and Francois followed protocol by alerting their manager and filing an incident report with the downtown association, which is required after a physical altercation. But “this report did not represent the extent and severity of the altercation, describing the event as an act of self-defense by the ambassador,” Caner said.
It wasn’t until his organization was made aware of the video that he took disciplinary actions.
“This violent behavior runs entirely contrary to our organization’s goals, as well as the standards and values of our entire community,” he said.
The Downtown Berkeley Association is a nonprofit group that supports local businesses and tries to create a safe and friendly atmosphere downtown.
On Monday, the Alameda County district attorney’s office charged Swor with misdemeanor assault with a deadly weapon for allegedly swinging the pole at the ambassadors, according to court documents. Prosecutors charged Cocklereese with a number of lesser charges, including battery and disturbing the peace, the documents show.
Both men pleaded no contest to the lesser charge of battery and were sentenced to probation, according to prosecutors.
Despite the apparent actions of the ambassadors in the video, Coats said the ambassador program has been a welcome presence in the downtown area.
“We’re concerned about what happened in this incident. We’ve worked with the DBA for years and they have been a good resource,” she said.
Caner said his organization would do everything it its power to make sure the situation doesn’t repeat itself.
“The DBA will redouble its efforts with screening, training and retraining to be sure no incident of this type occurs again in the future,” he said.