BERKELEY, Calif. (KTVU) - Berkeley police are asking for the public’s help with identifying a robbery suspect that was held by two good Samaritans before the getaway driver assaulted one and the suspects left the scene.
Police responded to a robbery in progress at Caffe Strada in Berkeley on Monday just before 1:00 p.m. A suspect allegedly snatched a laptop from a patron – who was using it at the time – before making a run towards a waiting car.
Two good Samaritans grabbed the suspect in front of the business and attempted to hold him until police arrived. One of the two had the alleged robber wrapped up in a belly-to-back hold and the other had ahold of his right arm.
"While we appreciate their courage, we at the same time caution people against doing that," said Sgt. Andrew Frankel. "We've had instances in which people fought to keep their laptop and they've been hurt badly."
Then the driver of a newer model blue Chevy Impala got out of the car and approached the struggle and repeatedly said “let him go.”
The two good Samaritans continued to hold the suspect, who had what appeared to be a plastic grocery bag in his hand, until the driver landed a punch on the side of one the unidentified good Samaritan’s head. The two released their hold and the suspects ran to the car and drove off. In the video, you can hear someone say “I got the license plate.”
And this laptop theft isn't a rare occurrence at Caffe Strada. In response, police have stepped up patrols there.
"After seeing something like this, it makes me feel like we can't really trust people around here," said Shinya Kadono, a student.
Back in February, undercover officers were conducting surveillance when another laptop was stolen. Four suspects were arrested in that incident. And other recent thefts have led students to keep their laptops with them while getting refills or using the restroom.
"I definitely take my laptop," said Stephanie Salas, a student. "Hearing about these incidents have definitely made me more cautious."
Some who have witnessed this type of threat at the cafe say they're tempted to chase the thieves down.
"I've personally chased a couple of these guys as they get out," said John Pujol, a cafe customer. "But they're smart enough to be prepared. Their cars are ready to go."
"Even the best track athlete probably can't get ahead of them."
This is an active investigation. Robbery detectives are asking the public to come forward if they can identify either of the two suspects involved. Additionally, there asking the good Samaritans to come forward. Anyone with related information can contact detectives at 510-981-5742.