By Doug Oakley
Bay Area News Group East Bay
A knife-wielding Berkeley woman who allegedly assaulted a U.S. letter carrier, threatened to kill her neighbors and made threatening phone calls to the office of U.S. Rep. Barbara Lee was taken into custody Saturday after more than 10 attempts to arrest her, Berkeley police said.
Groups of police tried to arrest the woman starting Jan. 12, the day she allegedly assaulted the letter carrier, police said.
Berkeley police spokeswoman Sgt. Mary Kusmiss said because the woman was usually armed with large kitchen knives and would retreat into her apartment when they approached, officers did not want to force a confrontation where they might have to shoot her.
"Some community members were frustrated with our approach, but we were operating in a very delicate balance," Kusmiss said.
"If we forced our way into her small apartment in unfamiliar territory in close quarters while she was armed with a knife, there may have been a shooting because a knife is a deadly weapon. We also had to balance the safety of the community and our officers."
Elaine Montgomery, 48, is undergoing a mental evaluation in a locked ward at Herrick Hospital in Berkeley to determine if she is fit to be arrested on a felony death threat warrant, officials said Monday.
That warrant was signed by the Alameda District Attorney's office after Montgomery threatened to kill her Tenth Street neighbors on Jan 18, Kusmiss said.
After dumping trash into their yard, Montgomery told her neighbors "I'm going to get my Uzi and kill you all, are you ready to die?" Kusmiss said.
Montgomery also called police on Jan. 14 and "challenged us to come and shoot her," Kusmiss said. When police arrived she threatened to stab them.
Police negotiators tried to talk to Montgomery several times through her window and on the telephone, but they were unable to even begin a conversation with her, Kusmiss said.
"There are some people with such significant challenges, it's impossible to negotiate with them," Kusmiss said.
The ordeal began when police said Montgomery pushed the letter carrier down her front steps and punched her. The letter carrier was shaken, but uninjured. Between Jan. 12 and Jan. 22, there were 52 emergency calls to Berkeley police either from Montgomery, who was demanding cigarettes be delivered and ranting at dispatchers, or from neighbors who saw her on the street yelling and screaming, authorities said.
In between the times police attempted to arrest her, undercover officers were watching her apartment waiting for her to come outside, Kusmiss said.
Montgomery called 911 Saturday morning to report that she was going out for cigarettes, and two officers approached her and took her into custody without incident, Kusmiss said.