The badly burned body of an unidentified man was found early this morning in Eastshore State Park near Interstate Highway 80 in Berkeley, East Bay Regional Park District police Sgt. Tyrone Davis said.
The body was discovered during the morning commute after somebody spotted a fire along West Frontage Road north of University Avenue at about 6:30 a.m.
Berkeley police spokesman Andrew Frankel said the call initially went to the Berkeley Fire Department.
"Somebody passing by on Highway 80 saw the fire and called," he said.
Firefighters responded, found the body and contacted Berkeley police, Frankel said. Berkeley police then handed the case over to the East Bay Regional Park District.
Our helicopter flew over the scene and showed what appeared to be a scorched body lying on its back about twenty feet from the road.
Davis called the case "shocking" and said it is "not something anyone would want to see at all."
"Whoever did this was very bold and didn't care if anyone saw them," he said, pointing out that the fire occurred just west of I-80 at a time when the highway is crowded with commuters. There are also typically joggers, bicyclists and dog walkers in the area, he said.
At about 11 a.m., the man's charred body was still sprawled on the ground near the entrance to a dog-walking trail at the park.
The Alameda County coroner's bureau has been called to the scene but Davis said the body will remain there until crime technicians finish processing the evidence.
It remains unclear whether the victim was killed in the park or was murdered elsewhere and brought to the park to be set on fire.
Davis said the victim apparently was set on fire inside some type of container, such as a plastic tube, a garbage can or a barrel. He said it's unclear if the man was bound before he was burned.
He said witnesses reported hearing an explosion but said that hasn't been confirmed.
Davis said it's impossible to determine the man's race or age at this point. He said authorities may have to use fingerprints or dental records to identify him.