UCPD Storms the Med's Mezzanine with Guns Drawn

By Ted Friedman
Wednesday June 08, 2011 - 10:52:00 AM
When in full beret--not pictured--Charles Goodman, a former Army Corporal, "rocks," according to YELP. He was a cool head on the scene for the Med during a police takeover of the cafe.
Ted Friedman
When in full beret--not pictured--Charles Goodman, a former Army Corporal, "rocks," according to YELP. He was a cool head on the scene for the Med during a police takeover of the cafe.

A "closed case" that brought six gun-pointing UCPD officers to the entrance of the Cafe Mediterraneum on Telegraph late last Tuesday remains an open sore to sorehead Medheads. A cluster of Berkeley police squad cars stood guard at Dwight and Teley in case…in case. In case, what?

Sore or not, Medheads who want to know what went down will have to sift through competing eye-witness accounts and competing critiques of the police operation, viewed by some as wrong-headed, if not soft-headed.

The police say they were responding to a man-with-a-gun report and proceeded accordingly—storming the Med for the public good as if they were taking Iwo Jima. 

Ironically, some critics of the ambitious police operation complain when the police don't come—blaming police failure to respond (and aggressive panhandlers) for a downturn in Teley's life-style. 

Let me be the first to report that when Berkeley or UCPD police hear "gun" they see red, but when they hear fists, they see softer colors, or as one City of Berkeley policewoman, responding months ago to a near-riot outside Raleigh's put it, "Guns come before fists." 

In the Tuesday tussle, fists preceded guns and there wasn't even a gun. Just the idea of a gun. Like the sit-lie ordinance which is now just an idea. Eye-witnesses describe a potential shoot-out that fizzled. 

Perhaps UCPD was trigger-squirmy because there had been a gun brandished during the Gina Sasso memorial at People's park last week, bringing eight squad cars down on the South side near the park. The gun at the memorial was later described by UCPD police as a B.B. gun. 

The Tuesday incident described by some eye-witnesses as "terrifying," began earlier in the day when a man later identified by UCPD as Jerry Thomas allegedly slugged people in People's Park and on Teley. By 10:38, according to UCPD records, Thomas was arrested for aggravated assault and violation of parole, taken to an emergency room for a wound on the back of the neck, then whisked to Santa Rita jail. 

Thomas, who was shirtless, and suffering from a bleeding neck wound, eluded police all day, but later caused a commotion outside the Med where he was asked to leave after stepping inside and shouting at someone on the mezzanine, "he did it; he did it." 

Thomas was asked to leave by Charles Goodman, 46, working the front counter, but continued to shout at the man on the mezzanine from outside the Med. When a squad car drove by, it was hailed by Thomas who may have honestly thought the guy on the mezzanine was a perp. But Thomas wound up as the accused perp himself.  

Thomas was somehow able to sell his man-with-gun-on-the-mezzanine story to the officer who was first on the scene. Goodman saw the officer who believed Thomas’s story peering into the Med front window at 10 pm, using his cell phone and eye-balling the mezzanine. 

The ensuing twenty minutes of cop-on-cop are now legendary, lodged in the Med history, full of cops-at-the-Med stories. Sources report that police yelled commands like "leave the cafe and get out now." They had their pistols aimed at the mezzanine and two displayed what one eye-witness described as "assault rifles", at the ready. 

Being hardcore Medheads, some heads (as many as six, according to a counter-person) stayed to see if they could get shot or get lucky and those who weren't there are asking which group they would have been in—the leavers or the stayers. 

One Medhead tried to have it both ways, "strolling," he said, past the police on the way out, "just to let them know I wasn't intimidated." 

The preceding is only act one. Remember the mezzanine? There was supposed to be 

"A man with a gun, but where wasn't exactly clear," as song lyrics put it. Sources from the balcony reported that the alleged perp was approached by as many as four officers with guns drawn, who patted him down, immediately handcuffed and questioned him, and decided finally instead to arrest the tipster, Thomas, who was still out in front. 

According to booking records at UCPD, Thomas was charged with aggravated assault 

(from the earlier encounter) and parole violation, treated for his neck wound at Highland Hospital, and booked into Santa Rita Jail, Dublin. 

The entire "terrifying" incident was over in twenty minutes, according to Goodman, who was previously serving up caps at the counter on what he called a good night of business. 

Goodman, son of a former police officer and an ex-Army Corporal, was assessing the situation as it developed, "remaining calm," considering his options," he said. He had a place to crouch should it have been necessary, he said. 

Goodman ordered a co-worker in the kitchen to "stay back," and at times the co-worker took cover under a counter. Another co-worker, off-shift, witnessed the action on the mezzanine where he was studying. 

Another mezzanine witness, critical of police in general, said the shouted police commands on the mezzanine were contradictory and panic-inducing. But the off-shift Med employee said he found the whole thing "exhilarating. The sort of thing that made your shift less boring." 

Craig Becker, 59, the Med owner, who arrived after the incident, got reports from his employees. His excitement, though, was not the good kind. 

Becker immediately put in a call to UCPD to, as he put it, get "their side of the story". That's when he got the usual responses the public gets when it attempts to learn police 


initially a staffer in the UCPD records office said the incident was not in their jurisdiction, but after Becker identified himself, he was told that the operation had occurred, but they could give him no information, because an investigation was under way. 

Becker wondered why the clerk had denied jurisdiction, but later admitted it. 

As Becker re-told of his experience with the UCPD in the Med, he said repeatedly that he could accept why they responded to the gun report, but "I don't like being lied to.” 

(This reporter advised Becker, whom he has known for 20 years, to re-phrase his term, "lied to," pointing out that Cary Grant, in "North by Northwest," called such fibs "the expedient exaggeration." ) 

A few days later, this reporter sat in on a meeting over coffee at the Med with Roland Peterson, spokesperson for Teley businessmen, Lt. Andrew Parker, a watch officer, with UCPD, and Becker during which Becker, now the med's number one sorehead, repeated the charge that he was "lied to." 

Well into Becker's dialogue with Parker, Parker asked, "what exactly was the lie, Craig?" 

"The lie about jurisdiction," Becker said. 

Parker said that the staff person involved was new to the job and possibly needed additional training. He promised to review tapes of the conversation. 

Whether or not the operation could have been avoided was thoroughly discussed, Parker saying he wasn't there, but that the proper procedures in cases such as this had been deployed, but the matter was still being discussed among officers at UCPD. 

Could not the police have deployed a plainclothes officer to the mezzanine? That’s what everyone in the Med has asked. 

Parker said that this option would certainly have been considered, but that no plainclothes officer was available at the time. 

As Parker, the most patient man in Berkeley, left, this reporter asked. "Who'll talk at the Med next, Your Chief of Police?" 

"Could be," said Parker, "You never know," he smiled as he left 

The next day, Stephen Roderick, Operations Division Captain, paid a visit to Craig at the Med, reporting that the tapes were reviewed and that UCPD "could have done better," referring to how they answered Becker's call for information. 

Becker told me, that he was satisfied with that answer, and later he added that he now saw the police side of the whole incident and "would give them the benefit of the doubt." 

While the Med's number one sorehead had healed, his loyal followers in the cafe continue to beef. 


Ted Friedman tells it as it was from Southside for the Planet