Criminal Charges Filed Against UC Berkeley Student Whose Alleged Threats Prompted Campus Lockdown

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Two police officers (and another man) walk across a campus holding rifles.
UC Berkeley police officers walk across Sproul Plaza, one holding a rifle, on April 21, 2022, during a campus-wide lockdown.  (Matthew Green/KQED)

Update, 10 a.m. Wednesday: Alameda County prosecutors on Monday filed criminal charges against a 39-year-old UC Berkeley student for allegedly threatening university staff members last Thursday, an incident that prompted police to lock down the entire campus for more than four hours.

Just before 6 a.m. on Thursday, Lamar Bursey of Hayward sent an email to multiple staff members, threatening to shoot two of them, according to a declaration UC Berkeley Police submitted to Alameda County Superior Court.

Bursey wrote, in the email, that he had slept "outside" the day before and would be on campus, "in the office," that day, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., the declaration said.

"Look, y'all are my resources," he wrote in the email, according to police. "Stop playing with me. Depending on who I feel was helping or not, 2 people on this email will get shot. Consider this a promisarry [sic] note you bitch you."

Bursey had been placed on academic suspension the previous week for a separate incident, police said, without specifying the reason.


"One of the recipients of the email was scared for his life and the life of others," the declaration said. "The victim felt that there was nothing to stop BURSEY from coming onto campus and causing harm to UC staff. He emailed his supervisor 'I will not be back on campus as long this person is a threat to my life.' "

Bursey was a participant in the Berkeley Underground Scholars Ambassador Program for formerly incarcerated people. As of Wednesday morning, the program had taken down its webpage with  photos and information about participating students.

UC Berkeley police arrested Bursey off-campus, at Alta Bates Summit Medical Center in Oakland, at around 2 p.m., without incident, according to a criminal complaint filed by the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office. The lockdown was lifted shortly thereafter.

Prosecutors are charging Bursey with two counts of felony criminal threats.

Original post, 6 p.m. Thursday.

UC Berkeley issued an "all clear" Thursday afternoon, more than four hours after locking down the school in response to "a credible campus-wide threat."

"ALL CLEAR - the situation has been resolved. Thank you for your patience," campus police posted on Twitter at 2 p.m., soon after lifting the order. University officials subsequently announced that classes and other regular campus operations would resume Friday.

Officers located the individual in question at an off-campus location at about 2 p.m., and determined there was no longer an immediate threat, said UC Berkeley spokesperson Dan Mogulof. He noted the investigation is ongoing and said more details may be released when deemed "warranted and appropriate."

Students and faculty were sent multiple emails and text message alerts Thursday morning, and were asked to leave campus quickly, with in-person classes canceled for the remainder of the day. The Berkeley Unified School District also placed seven nearby schools on a “soft lockdown,” keeping all exterior gates and doors secured for much of the day "out of an abundance of caution."

The person who made the threats is an "individual associated with the campus," said Mogulof, but stopped short of providing any additional details about the suspect's identity or whether an arrest had been made, citing "unique and complicated privacy concerns." No injuries were reported.

At around 7:30 a.m., he said, campus police received information about "credible threats of violence directed at other individuals, people who teach or work or learn at the university," and moved quickly to lock down and search the campus, closing all libraries, cafeterias, parking garages and other facilities.

"UCPD became aware of the threats through a variety of different sources," Mogulof said. "But suffice it to say that after a quick initial investigation, those threats were deemed to be legitimate, serious and of grave, grave concern."

A view of UC Berkeley's Sproul Plaza without any people.
An empty Sproul Plaza at around noon on Thursday, April 21, 2022, during UC Berkeley's campus-wide lockdown. (Matthew Green/KQED)

The university didn't hesitate to "respond quickly and comprehensively," he added. "We're not going to take any chances when it comes to the safety of the community, even if in retrospect it may be proved that it wasn't necessary."

Mogulof said that in his 18 years working here, this was first time the entire campus had been locked down.

During the incident, students and faculty on campus were instructed by police to shelter in their classrooms and offices and stay away from doors and windows, despite also being assured there was no active shooter on campus. A number of people who were stuck inside their buildings took to Twitter, expressing frustration that the university wasn't providing specific details about the incident and was being too vague about the extent of the threat.

"Getting a bit frustrated at lack of clear information regarding this situation at Berkeley," Keanan Joyner, an assistant professor of psychology, said in a tweet. "Sending the same email with no updates every 15 minutes is not helping the situation."

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Mogulof acknowledged that frustration, but stressed that the administration followed the "gold standard of communications" established after the 2007 Virginia Tech mass shooting, which is to "put out the barest possible minimum of information."

"Not only are there privacy concerns, but there are certain types of information that people understandably would like to get, but that could actually serve as a source of additional peril and danger," he said. "Because obviously, anything that we convey to the public as a whole would be conveyed to the source of the threat at the same time."

University officials will hold a postmortem next week to "examine carefully ways that we can improve," he said.

Mogulof said he couldn't remember the last time the school had updated its active shooter protocols, but confirmed it had not been done "recently."

Throughout late Thursday morning and early afternoon, campus grounds remained open, but were eerily quiet, with only a handful of people milling around the school's normally vibrant Sproul Plaza. Several campus police officers stood guard outside Martin Luther King Jr. Student Union — where the investigation appeared to be primarily focused — while behind the building's locked glass doors, students could be seen working quietly on laptops in the lobby lounge area, as officers occasionally walked by with rifles in hand.

"Not what I expected," said James Vickers, a high school junior from Boston who had come to tour the campus with his dad. "But I mean, you know, it is what it is. Hopefully, no one gets hurt."

April, a senior who asked that her last name not be used, said she thought the incident probably involved a student experiencing a mental health issue. Sitting outside the locked-down student center on Thursday morning, she said mental health issues among students are increasingly common.

"People get stressed," April said, noting that final exams were just around the corner. She said on-campus counseling and other mental health resources are too limited and often not easily accessible, which can be particularly detrimental for students facing crises.

"They don't really know how to find help and then their stuff escalates and it's too late," she said.

In a statement to students and faculty, posted Thursday afternoon, UC Berkeley Chancellor Carol Christ acknowledged "an unsettling day for our community."

"While we are fortunate that no one was injured in this incident, we recognize the alarm and the anxiety this caused," she said. "Our sense of safety and security was threatened; our academic and research pursuits were interrupted; and, for some, past experiences with violence may have resurfaced."

Christ said students can schedule same-day counseling visits by calling the university’s Counseling and Psychological Services at (510) 642-9494; booking through the online portal, known as eTang; or calling the after-hours counseling line at (855) 817-5667.


Free confidential counseling also is available to faculty and staff through the Employee Assistance Program.