SWAT teams arrested armed-robbery suspects in multiple cities, including Berkeley, Wednesday morning. Photo: Citizen reporter

Four armed-robbery suspects were arrested Wednesday morning in a multi-city operation involving SWAT teams from several agencies, including the Berkeley Police Department. The operation involved activity in South Berkeley.

The arrests were related to the armed robberies of several cellphone stores. On April 9, multiple people “engaged in a takeover style robbery of an AT&T store in Alameda,” according to a press release issued by the Alameda Police Department, which led Wednesday’s operation.

Alameda police worked with other local law enforcement to identify suspects, said the release, sent by Lt. Hoshmand Durani. They determined the suspects worked together to rob the Alameda store and “numerous” others in surrounding cities.

“In each robbery incident, the armed suspects entered a cellular phone store and forcibly took the store’s merchandise and the customer’s personal property,” the release said.

Wednesday’s operation, which began at 6 a.m., involved SWAT teams from Alameda, Berkeley, Oakland, Hayward, Brentwood and Pittsburg. Police searched six different locations for six suspects in Alameda and Contra Costa counties. Four were arrested, and the investigation and pursuit of the other suspects is ongoing.

Several Berkeleyside readers said they were alarmed by the presence of a SWAT team in South Berkeley. Some said they saw officers and military-style vehicles on the 1500 block of Harmon Street, and some saw activity Fairview Street. One witness who was walking his dog just before 7 a.m. reported seeing an Alameda SWAT team in the area of Fairview, California and Harmon streets. When he asked a uniformed officer what we going on, he was told the authorities were “surveilling  someone.” “Looks bad,” he wrote in an email to Berkeleyside.

A few people reported hearing “explosions” or the sound of gunshots when, or just before, the SWAT team arrived.

“People on the street described explosion sounds, but to me it sounded like someone dropping two large bales of lumber. Mysterious,” wrote Peter Butler on Twitter.

Durani told Berkeleyside he did not have any information about the loud sounds, but wrote in an email, “I can tell you that there has not been any reports of shots fired involving our personnel.”

A helicopter hovered over South Berkeley for a period of time during the SWAT team activity. No neighborhoods were evacuated before or during the arrests, Durani said, and no shelter-in-place advisories were reported.

Berkeleyside will update this story if more information becomes available.

Natalie Orenstein reports on housing and homelessness for The Oaklandside. Natalie was a Berkeleyside staff reporter from early 2017 to May 2020. She had previously contributed to the site since 2012,...