Ashkenaz's rustic-looking building on San Pablo. Photo: Jeremy Brooks
Ashkenaz’s rustic-looking building on San Pablo. Photo: Jeremy Brooks
Ashkenaz’s rustic-looking building on San Pablo. Photo: Jeremy Brooks

Two employees of Ashkenaz were shot and seriously injured early Saturday morning during an armed robbery of the popular dance center at 1317 San Pablo Ave., currently celebrating its 40th anniversary.

Two people with guns walked into the crowded dance hall around 12:05 a.m. and demanded cash, according to a press release by the Berkeley Police Department. The suspects fired guns during the robbery and bullets struck two employees, according to police.

Berkeley police arrived quickly and saw one suspect running down San Pablo Avenue, according to police. Officers quickly surrounded the block, warned neighbors to stay inside, and brought in BPD’s Barricaded Subject Hostage Negotiation Team. Berkeley police, along with a deputy from the K-9 unit of the Alameda County Sheriff’s Department, did a yard-to-yard search for the suspect. He was finally located behind a building in the 1300 block of San Pablo Avenue. He was taken into custody and arrested. The other suspect remains at large. Berkeley police are not releasing any names at this time.

“An officer saw somebody leaving the area that may have matched the description that had been provided,” Officer Jennifer Coats, Berkeley Police spokeswoman, told KTVU news. “The officer attempted to stop that person, and he fled from the officer.”

The two Ashkenaz employees who were shot were taken to the hospital and treated for “serious” injuries, according to police. They are in stable condition and are expected to recover, according to a post on Ashkenaz’s Facebook page.

“We at Ashkenaz are deeply touched by the support and concern already expressed by so many in response to last night’s events. We are relieved and grateful to report that our two family members are in stable condition and expected to recover.”

“Ashkenaz will be open Saturday night and beyond. As we conclude our anniversary celebration, we have more reason than ever to honor 40 Years of Dancing for Peace. We invite and welcome all friends and community members to come out and show support and solidarity. Stop the Violence!”

The shooting is eerily reminiscent of Dec. 19, 1996, when the founder and owner of Ashkenaz Music and Dance Community Center, David Nadel, was shot and killed by a disgruntled and drunk patron whom Nadel had ejected from the club earlier that evening. The perpetrator has never been caught.

Nadel transformed Ashkenaz from a decrepit building into a thriving music hall that featured performers from all over the world. After his death, Ashkenaz supporters purchased the building from Nadel’s family, turned the business into a non-profit, and continued to offer an electrifying array of music. Ashkenaz has also become a community center, with classes, dance nights and a place for young musicians to perform.

The dance hall is putting on a 10-day celebration of its 1973 founding with a wide array of music. On Friday night, SambaDa, an Afro-Brazilian band from Santa Cruz, and Locura performed.

The Berkeley Police Department asks anyone with information about the incident to call them at 510-981-5742 or 510 981-5900. Callers who wish to remain anonymous can provide tips to Bay Area Crime Stoppers at 800-222-8477.

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Frances Dinkelspiel, Berkeleyside and CItyside co-founder, is a journalist and author. Her first book, Towers of Gold: How One Jewish Immigrant Named Isaias Hellman Created California, published in November...