Berkeley police officers shot a chain-wielding robbery suspect with a bullet and less-lethal projectiles Saturday night, sending the man to Highland Hospital with serious injuries to the head and mouth, according to police and emergency radio traffic reviewed by Berkeleyside.
It is the first time a Berkeley police officer has shot and wounded a suspect since 2012.
Officers were called just before 8:30 p.m. to the downtown Berkeley Walgreens at 2190 Shattuck Ave. (at Allston Way) after a man brandishing a long chain threatened a store clerk then took food items from the shop, according to radio traffic reviewed by Berkeleyside.
Berkeleyside has requested information from the Berkeley Police Department but had not received a response to multiple inquiries as of publication time. (Note: A statement was provided early Sunday morning and appears at the bottom of this story.)
Police found the man on Bancroft Way east of Fulton Street and called for officers with less-lethal weapons — which shoot foam projectiles — to respond to the scene, according to radio traffic.
Officers reported over the radio repeatedly that they were attempting to negotiate with the man but said he was not responsive and would not drop the chain.
Police ultimately fired several rounds of less-lethal munitions at the man when he refused to obey verbal commands, BPD said. An officer also fired a gun at the man, striking him in the mouth, when he advanced on police, authorities said.
The man’s injuries as described over the radio included a head wound and a compromised airway due to a “mouth injury.” The injuries appeared to be non-life-threatening, police said.
A supervisor immediately called for crime scene tape to block off the area for the ensuing investigation, according to emergency dispatches.
“I don’t want anyone coming into this courtyard at all,” the officer said over the radio.
The Berkeley Fire Department took the man to Highland Hospital for medical treatment.
The man’s condition was not available as of publication time.
The last officer-involved shooting in Berkeley took place in July 2020 when an officer fired at the vehicle of fleeing robbery suspects alleged to have shoplifted from the North Berkeley CVS; no one was injured.
Six months later, Berkeleyside is still awaiting the findings from that investigation despite several requests for them. The entire report, including findings and any disciplinary action, must be released to the public under California public records laws.
Berkeleyside will update this story when additional information becomes available.
Update, Sunday, Jan. 3, 1:23 a.m. The Berkeley Police Department provided a statement about the shooting to Berkeleyside on Sunday just after 1:10 a.m. They said police shot a 51-year-old man, who is now in stable condition, after he advanced on police and acted “in an erratic manner.”
BPD said officers originally responded to Walgreens at 2190 Shattuck Ave. for a robbery report Saturday just after 8:20 p.m. The suspect left the store after the robbery and officers saw him walking on Bancroft Way, BPD said.
Officers tried to detain the man, but he walked into the Tang Center courtyard at 2222 Bancroft Way, about four blocks from Walgreens, BPD said.
“A negotiator-trained officer attempted to de-escalate the suspect, but he continued to speak and act in an erratic manner,” according to the BPD statement. “When officers attempted to take the suspect into custody, the suspect advanced toward the officers. Officers deployed less-lethal munitions and an officer also discharged their firearm during the incident.”
Police said the man was taken to a local hospital for medical treatment.
“This incident is being investigated by the Department’s Homicide Unit and the Department’s Internal Affairs Unit,” according to BPD. “As is our policy, the District Attorney’s Office will be notified of the investigation and the involved officer will be placed on administrative leave.”
Update, Jan. 7: In response to a Berkeleyside inquiry, BPD has identified the suspect in this case as 51-year-old Vincent Bryant. He has been charged with several felonies in connection with the case and remains in the hospital.