Berkeley police: Armed robbery, coffee shop laptop thefts, cellphone thefts, more

Berkeley Police Department. Photo: Kaia Diringer

The Berkeley Police Department regularly releases cases of community interest, which include incidents that involve violence or weapons or that people in the city have asked about. In 2018, BPD handled about 73,000 incidents and made more than 2,000 arrests. Every month, there are more than 300 Part 1, or serious felony, crimes in Berkeley. Arrestees are innocent until proven guilty.

ARMED ROBBERY A man with a gun robbed a 19-year-old Berkeley woman in the 2400 block of Parker Street of her backpack, police report. Last week Tuesday, April 2, the woman was walking just after 11 p.m. on Parker near Dana Street when the man pointed the gun at her and demanded her bag. Her laptop was inside. The man took the backpack and ran east on Parker. Witnesses said he was black, in his 30s, about 6 feet tall with a heavy build. He wore a black beanie cap, a black hooded top, a light-colored shirt and dark pants.

LAPTOP ROBBERY AND THEFT Sunday just before 6:45 p.m. two people went into Sack’s Coffee House and took laptops from two customers there, according to police. First, one of the culprits threw a cup of lemonade in a 22-year-old Berkeley woman’s face and took her computer. Police said the other laptop was taken when people ran out of the store after the robber: His associate then took a laptop that had been left unattended by a Berkeley man who ran out to help with the chase. Police said no descriptions were available. The coffee shop, which is popular with UC Berkeley students, is located at 2701 College Ave., at Derby Street. The coffee shop has been targeted repeatedly by thieves and robbers, including in February.

TWO MORE LAPTOP THEFTS AT BERKELEY CAFÉS Police handled two other laptop thefts from Berkeley coffee shops last week, from Berkeley Espresso (1900 Shattuck Ave. at Hearst Avenue) and Alchemy Collective Café (1741 Alcatraz Ave. at Ellis Street).


On April 1 at 6 p.m., a 49-year-old Berkeley man was sitting inside Berkeley Espresso working on his computer when a young man snatched the laptop and ran off with a partner, police said. BPD said the first man was described as black, 18-22 years old, 5’6″-5’8″ tall with a slim build, in a black hooded top and black pants. The other man was described as Hispanic, of similar age and height, with a heavy build, wearing a multi-colored jacket.

Two days later, April 3, a 22-year-old Oakland woman was sitting inside Alchemy at 12:55 p.m., with her computer on a table in front of her, when two people — including a man in a mask — ran in and took it. The strangers ran off. Police said the masked man was described as black, in his 20s and about 6 feet tall, wearing a black beanie cap that had eyeholes cut out of it. No description was provided for the other thief.

CELLPHONE THEFTS FROM FOUR WOMEN Police also handled two cellphone thefts within about 30 minutes April 1, followed by another one Saturday.

On April 1 at 8 p.m., a 20-year-old Berkeley woman was walking in the 2400 block of Bancroft Way near Dana Street. As she used her phone, a male stranger grabbed it, then rode away on a skateboard, police said. Witnesses said he wore a black hooded top and shorts. They did not know his race.

About 25 minutes later, a 22-year-old El Monte woman was walking on Allston Way (at Shattuck) when a male stranger grabbed the phone and ran off. He was last seen heading west on Center Street. The thief was described as about 5’6″-5’8″ tall with a thin build, in a black hooded top, dark pants and white shoes. His race was unknown.

Saturday, two young Berkeley women, ages 18 and 22, were waiting for the bus at about 4:50 p.m. at College Avenue and Woolsey Street when two strangers grabbed their phones from their hands, police said. The thieves got into a vehicle and another man drove them away.

One of the men was described as black, 5 feet 8 inches tall with a medium build, with short black hair, wearing a black T-shirt. Another was described as a black man who appeared 28-30 years old, 5 feet 10 inches tall with a skinny build, black hair, wearing a gray hooded sweatshirt and ripped jeans. The third — the driver — was described as a Hispanic man, 18-20 years old, with a “buzz cut” hairstyle, wearing a white T-shirt.


UPDATE FROM JANUARY LAPTOP THEFT Police arrested a Richmond man who has now been charged in connection with a laptop theft at Passione Caffe in downtown Berkeley in January. In that incident, a 33-year-old Berkeley man was sitting with his laptop in front of the café, at 91 Shattuck Square (at Addison Street), when a man ran up and took the computer. Detectives investigating the case ultimately identified 20-year-old Lonnie Deshun Jacobs as the culprit. BPD got a warrant and arrested Jacobs on April 4 on suspicion of felony theft, BPD reports.

According to court records online, the Alameda County district attorney’s office charged Jacobs on Monday with grand theft from a person, a felony. He entered a not guilty plea, according to records online. Jacobs was convicted in 2014 of home burglary, which was listed online as a strike, according to court records. He remains in custody with a bail of $20,000 and is set for a pretrial hearing Tuesday at the René C. Davidson Courthouse in Oakland.

AUTO BURGLARY ARREST AFTER INTERRUPTED VEHICLE THEFT Police arrested a man on probation Saturday who was searching through one vehicle after trying to steal another one, according to police. Saturday at 8 a.m., a resident in the 1800 block of Alcatraz Avenue (near Adeline Street) heard someone trying to start his vehicle. The resident went outside and found a man inside the vehicle who then rode off a bike. About 10 minutes later, a police officer found the man “rummaging through a vehicle parked several blocks away,” according to police. Officers searched the man and found burglary tools and drug paraphernalia, police said. Officers arrested Ernest Bennett, 42, whose address is unknown, in connection with attempted vehicle theft, theft, possession of burglary tools, possession of narcotics paraphernalia and violation of probation, police said. Bennett remains in custody at Santa Rita Jail. He is ineligible for bail because of his probation status, according to court records online. He is scheduled for arraignment Thursday morning at East County Hall of Justice in Dublin.

Note: This story was updated shortly after publication, when BPD provided the information, with the Jacobs arrest and victim cities of residence.