Berkeley driver, 85, charged with death of jogger Julia Elkin

The DA's office charged Buldan Seka with vehicular manslaughter on Tuesday.

Berkeley driver, 85, charged with death of jogger Julia Elkin
Julia Elkin succumbed to her injuries after being struck by a driver in Berkeley on Feb. 12. LinkedIn

A Berkeley artist is facing a vehicular manslaughter charge after striking a jogger on Marin Avenue earlier this year, causing fatal injuries, court papers show.

Julia Elkin died in the hospital about two weeks after the Feb. 12 crash. She was just 37 years old.

On Tuesday, the Alameda County district attorney's office charged Berkeley ceramic artist Buldan Seka with vehicular manslaughter.

The charge is listed as a misdemeanor.

Julia Elkin lived on Oxford Street about 1 mile from the crash site, according to public records.

Seka, who turned 85 just weeks before the fatal collision, lives up the hill on Spruce Street, a half-mile from the crash site, according to court records.

Pedestrian sustains major injuries in Berkeley Hills crash
Police said the pedestrian was still down in the roadway when first responders arrived. She had serious injuries to the head.

Berkeley police have repeatedly declined to share details about the crash, citing the ongoing investigation.

But police ultimately found driver Seka at fault in the collision, according to charging papers that became available this week.

Police wrote that Seka violated a section of the vehicle code, section CVC 21950(c), which requires caution around pedestrians.

"The driver of a vehicle approaching a pedestrian within any marked or unmarked crosswalk shall exercise all due care and shall reduce the speed of the vehicle or take any other action relating to the operation of the vehicle as necessary to safeguard the safety of the pedestrian," according to the code section.

Read more about traffic safety in Berkeley.

Police wrote that Seka had been heading west on Marin Avenue at about 1:30 p.m. just prior to the crash.

According to BPD, she stopped at the eastern stop sign at Oxford Street and then proceeded.

At the same time, Julia Elkin was "likely" running northbound on the west side of the same intersection, BPD wrote. Police said they did not know if Elkin stopped prior to crossing Marin or how fast she was jogging.

Police wrote that Seka had "likely collided" with Elkin in the western crosswalk.

Witnesses said the force of the crash sent Elkin flying through the air. She sustained serious head injuries and was unconscious when the Berkeley Fire Department rushed her to the hospital.

Julia Elkin, struck by driver in Berkeley, has died
Elkin had a “deep passion for making our human and natural communities more resilient to climate change.” She was just 37 years old.

In charging papers, a BPD traffic officer wrote that he had been "unable to determine" if Elkin "exercised due care when she entered the crosswalk."

A witness had "described her as running," he wrote, but no one had been able to say "how fast she was running, if she paused at any point, if she yielded to any other vehicles, or if she made any attempt to avoid the collision."

Seka, who is originally from Macedonia, has been widely recognized for her ceramic sculptures.

Her "brightly painted, freakish ceramic sculptures have caught the eye and attention of drivers and bikers and walkers on upper Spruce Street in Berkeley for years," a Berkeleyside profile from 2015 reads.

According to Seka's website, she is affiliated with the California College of Arts, where she also studied.

According to court records, Seka is out of custody but has been ordered to appear at Wiley Manuel Courthouse in Oakland on June 25 for her initial hearing.

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