Berkeley police officers with guns drawn evacuated customers and employees from Andronico’s Community Markets on Telegraph Avenue near Derby Street Friday night.
At about 8:15 p.m., a community member called the Berkeley Police Department to report a suspicious circumstance, according to Berkeley Police Department spokesperson Sgt. Mary Kusmiss. The 21-year-old man said he had seen two men walk into the grocery store — one carrying what appeared to be an assault rifle wrapped in a blanket under his arm, she said in an email.
Another dispatcher called the store to figure out if there was any kind of crime or emergency going on, and was informed that there had been no problems reported inside, according to Kusmiss.
A handful of BPD officers — including a lieutenant and sergeant — responded to the call, and some were staged where they could see the business but were out of sight of a suspect with a potential long-range, deadly weapon, Kusmiss said in the email.
“Concerned that the scenario might evolve into a takeover style robbery based on the details, members of BPD took the call very seriously,” she said in the email. “Officers in other jurisdictions have been shot and killed even after calling inside a business and the call taker insisting that everything is fine.”
About three squad cars arrived at the store, located at 2655 Telegraph Ave., by about 8:45 p.m.
Approximately six police officers gathered at their vehicles across the street before moving closer to the store and evacuating customers and employees.
According to Kusmiss, the store manager told the officers that nothing seemed out of the ordinary, although they had not thoroughly checked the rear offices and storage and that people had accessed those areas previously.
The lieutenant and sergeant requested that the store manager make an announcement for customers and employees to leave the store before a team of officers then “systematically” cleared the store using both pistols and patrol rifles, according to Kusmiss.
Officers found no one hiding or matching the descriptions of the man with the gun or the person who had allegedly accompanied him.
After roughly half an hour, police allowed people to re-enter the store.
The market’s manager declined to give any information.
The reporting party described one suspect as a male, 30 to 40 years old with brown shoulder-length hair and a beard, carrying an assault rifle wrapped in a white sheet with the butt and magazine showing. The second suspect was described as a 30- to 40-year-old bald male wearing a black T-shirt.