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SUV Smashes Into Starbucks By RICHARD BRENNEMAN

Friday July 29, 2005

An SUV driver battered his vehicle through the doors of the Starbucks at Solano and Colusa avenues Tuesday morning, scattering a dozen or more customers who leapt out of the way and jumped through open windows as he backed up and tried it again. 

“He appeared to be aiming for the counter,” said Berkeley Police spokesperson Officer Joe Okies. 

After the second try, the driver backed out and sped away northbound on Colusa Avenue, leaving parts of vehicle scattered inside and outside the coffee shop. 

Police quickly identified a suspect, in large part because the jeep’s front bumper cover was left behind in the wreckage, complete with license plate. 

Even without it, police would have quickly found the fellow because customers who had leapt out of the store managed to write down the number on the rear plate. 

“He came back and hit it twice,” said 14-year-old Lily McNeil, who was standing outside not far from the entrance when the attack occurred. “I was really surprised, it was like, ‘Oh my God!’” 

“At first I thought it was a crash, and then I thought maybe it was a robbery because people were rushing out of the windows,” said her companion, Josie Guthrie, 12. 

A store employee told acquaintances that customers had rushed outside to write down the vehicle’s license number. When approached by a reporter, she said, “I cannot talk to you. I am loyal to my company.” 

Officers and crime scene technicians were at the scene within minutes, interviewing witnesses and gathering evidence. 

Among the vehicle parts left behind were a front bumper cover, a lower front quarter panel covered in burgundy paint and the remains of a parking light. 

The floor of the shop was covered with shattered glass from the front door windows the driver broke as he made his attacks. Tables and chairs were upended, the remains of the blue doors lay across the entrance, and scattered bags of chips and boxes lay where they’d fallen. 

A support beam standing in front of the counter apparently saved those who were the targets of the driver’s wrath, and the force of the impact opened a crack in the stucco along the store’s Solano Avenue frontage. 

“It was a miracle that no one was hit,” said Okies as he surveyed the scene. “There were at least a dozen people in here when it happened.” 

Police quickly located the 40-year-old suspect and took him into custody, later releasing him to the custody of a mental health facility after it became apparent he was suffering from mental problems. 

Officer Okies said the man hadn’t been arrested, though the incident has been classified as an assault with a deadly weapon “because it seemed obvious that his action were intentional and there were at least a dozen people in line at the counter.” y