Taskforce aids in takedown of 3 in Bay Area takeover-style robberies

Three East Bay men are now behind bars accused of nearly two dozen takeover-style robberies of restaurants and bars.

Police say they struck in six Bay Area cities.

KTVU obtained exclusive video of one robbery and spoke to employees at two businesses that were hit.

San Francisco police say The Bar on Dolores in San Francisco was struck three times.

On the third time, police say they had the business under surveillance and arrested the suspects.

The corner bar is a longtime neighborhood fixture, a place of comfort and camaraderie, but after three armed robberies, the workers are shaken.

"What I'm going to do tonight when it gets dark is I'm going to lock that door and if you come and if I don't know you, I'm not going to let you in," says Rose Downer, a bartender at The Bar on Dolores.

Downer said the gunmen took money the first time at the end of March. Four days later, she says the same men returned and robbed not only the bar, but stole from two patrons as well.

"I'm scared. Everyone's scared," she said.

Berkeley police released surveillance video of one robbery to KTVU.

It shows one suspect rummaging and then making a man who appears to be an employee, empty his pockets. The robber is joined by a second suspect.

Berkeley police said the men are responsible for nine takeover robberies of bars and restaurants in their city alone.

"These suspects in question are using overwhelming force and fear. They go in and use the force and fear to get what they want. In this case, it's the take from the cash register or some of the members of the business," says Sgt. Andrew Frankel.

Berkeley P.D. said once they determined there was a series of robberies, they reached out to other police agencies and the FBI and formed a task force.

Authorities say the same robbers struck in Oakland, Hayward, Albany, and four businesses in San Leandro, including; Ana Rosa's Mexican Restaurant.

"It was around closing time, around 9," said a waitress who asked us not to give her name.

She said the gunman walked in, his face hidden by a black hood.
"He got all the tips from the jar. He said, ‘Come here, come here!’ so I had to come and open the register. He started taking all the money, pointing at me with the gun," said the waitress.

The gunman then ordered the customers not to move or touch their phones, she said.

Both the waitress and the bartender say they're glad the men have been arrested, but the experience has left them unsettled.

"I'm relieved, but there's still residual fear," said Downer at The Bar on Dolores.

Police have identified the three men arrested as’ 18-year-old Kristoffer Jones of Albany, 40-year-old Shawan Spragans and 46-year-old Merl Simpson, both from Oakland.

Police said witness descriptions and surveillance video helped them catch the suspects. Fortunately, no one was hurt in these robberies.