Police Blotter

By Richard Brenneman
Friday January 25, 2008

Robbery ring 

What began as the arrest of a violent burglar at the Doubletree Hotel in the Berkeley Marina ended up as the smashing of a robbery ring which had terrorized Bay Area merchants. 

It took four officers to subdue 39-year-old Robert Andrew Farmer when they confronted him at the Marina hostelry shortly before 4 a.m. on Jan. 4. 

During the struggle, an alleged accomplice jumped out of a closet onto the backs of arresting officers and tried to grab a pistol out of one of the uniformed officers’ holster, reports Berkeley Police spokesperson Sgt. Mary Kusmiss. 

So Jenna Marine Mercure, 35, of Martinez, was also clapped into handcuffs and hauled off to the local lockup. 

There officers learned that Farmer was the subject of a $150,000 warrant resulting from a Pleasant Hill robbery when he had allegedly punched and stomped the head of a jewelry store clerk in the course of a heist, inflicting serious injuries. 

Investigators also realized that Farmer matched the description given by witnesses to a robbery two days earlier at the Red Bird, a jewelry and women’s clothing story near the Claremont Hotel in the 2900 block of Domingo Avenue. 

In that heist, Farmer had allegedly pulled a pistol and ordered a clerk to fill a snakeskin bag with jewelry while his partner went to the back of the store and made off with more jewelry. 

Sgt. Kusmiss said Farmer admitted the jewelry heist to investigators, and more digging led to links to their fences in El Sobrante and Richmond. 

Police recovered more than $150,000 in loot, which Sgt. Kusmiss said was restored to its owners. The investigation also led to the arrests of Farmer’s brother, Patrick Ryan Farmer, 29, who Kusmiss said has also admitted his participation in the robbery spree. 


Bank heists 

Bank robbers struck twice in Berkeley last week, striking once on Monday and again on Friday, both times on Shattuck Avenue. 

“We had six bank robberies for all of 2007, so two in one week is kind of unusual,” said Sgt. Kusmiss. 

The first robber struck at 5:15 p.m. Monday at the Washington Mutual branch at 2150 Shattuck. He approach a teller, presented a note and demanded cash. Loot in hand, he headed back out the front door and was last seen headed southbound on the avenue. 

The second robber, a different felon, walked into the Union Bank of California branch at 2333 Shattuck Ave. at 11:50 a.m. Friday, where he walked up to a teller, quietly informing the teller that he was robbing the place. He held his hand inside his jacket, as though gripping a pistol, said Sgt. Kusmiss. He also fled on foot, but out the bank’s rear door. 


Robbery arrests 

UC Berkeley police arrested two 17-year-olds they have charged with the robbery of a pedestrian Sunday night near the corner of College Avenue and Dwight Way. 

According to campus police, the victim flagged down a passing UCPD patrol car moments before midnight to report the crime, which had been perpetrated by a pair of young men who had rolled up in a white car and threatened to beat him if he didn’t hand over his cell phone and iPod. 

Less than an hour later, campus officers saw a similar car and made a stop. The pair was arrested after an identification by the robbery victim. 


Honda vs. bike 

A Berkeley bicyclist sustained minor injuries early Friday evening when he was struck by a Honda as he turned from The Alameda in North Berkeley. Sgt. Kusmiss said the cyclist, a 26-year-old Berkeley man, hit the passenger side of the car, which had failed to yield the right of way. The bike rider was thrown onto the hood of the car, and sustained abrasions and bruises. The driver, 74, is also a Berkeley resident.