Whole Foods closed after security officers pepper-spray thief with knife

At the Whole Foods main entrance: “2 workers just standing there. They are turning people away at parking entrances too.” Photo: Citizen reporter

Customers are being asked to check out and leave the Berkeley Whole Foods on Gilman Street, and would-be customers are not being allowed inside, local shoppers report.

One reader told Berkeleyside at 6:30 p.m. that the store, at 1025 Gilman, just had a “pepper spray incident” but “they won’t give details and they aren’t letting anyone in the store.”

Scroll down for updates about the shutdown.

She continued: “We just tried to buy groceries, they won’t let people in but current customers are allowed to shop. They are bringing in experts to test the air to ensure it’s safe for customers.”


She said there were “No cops or anything,” and that the incident “looked very very recent and employees weren’t too sure what to do.”

Another reader wrote that, while shopping at Whole Foods, “an announcement came asking everyone to please check out and exit the store and all of the workers are not saying why they’re not letting people out the center doors making us go through the side doors and no one can come in.”

Berkeleyside has asked the Berkeley Police Department for information and will reach out to Whole Foods, too.

Update, 7 p.m. BPD has confirmed that Whole Foods employees closed the business.  An employee with a reflective vest was turning people away from the parking lot.

Update, 7:12 p.m. According to BPD, “At 5:48 pm, officers responded to 1025 Gilman Street on a report of someone brandishing a knife. According to security/loss prevention, they attempted to stop/contact a man who had just stolen items from inside.” When they spoke with him, he brandished a knife at them. “That’s when security/loss prevention sprayed the man with pepper spray. The man then ran away,” dropping the items he had taken, said Officer Byron White, a BPD spokesman. The brandishing of the knife and subsequent pepper spray took place outside, White said.


Whole Foods has not been available for comment.

Update, 7:48 p.m. Beth Krauss, a regional Whole Foods spokeswoman, confirmed that the store is closed for now.

“Out of an abundance of caution we have temporarily closed our Gilman store after pepper spray was released into the environment,” she said by email, noting that staffers hoped to reopen Monday night.

Several minutes later, Krauss said the store has decided to stay closed through the evening: “Customer and Team Member safety is our top priority, and we want to be thorough in taking the necessary steps to ensure the area is properly cleared. We will be open again tomorrow morning.”

Normal business hours are from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily.