East Bay restaurant robbers strike again

April 17, 2008 8:58:15 PM PDT
The search continues for the band of armed robbers who held-up a restaurant Wednesday night in Emeryville. It's the eighth takeover in a string of similar robberies in the East Bay, most are in Oakland, two in Berkeley.

The Furenzu Restaurant was taken over around 9:00 p.m., an hour before closing time, and for workers and diners caught in the middle, it must have been terrifying.

A couple wrote about their eating experience in the guest book, "The food was excellent, but we picked the wrong night to come here. Love. Two people who got robbed."

15 customers were finishing their dinners when two men wearing hooded jackets, burst into the restaurant. One had a semi automatic handgun.

The restaurant owner, who does not want to be identified, says the robbers demanded money but there was none in the cash box.

"I'm sorry, it's dumb to rob a restaurant because restaurants seldom have cash because everyone has credit cards," said a Furenzu restaurant owner. "They couldn't get any cash from us and that's when they started yelling and threatening our manager. They came across the room and got cash from my customers."

Then the robbers ran out the door. It was quick and brazen. This is the eighth takeover robbery in or near Oakland since the end of March. Two of them occurred in Berkeley.

All the others except Wednesday's were in Oakland, including the popular Milano Restaurant which was hit Sunday.

Surveillance video from the Milano shows four men wearing hooded jackets, two armed with assault pistols, took money from the counter and robbed diners at gunpoint. Police say all of the heists could be related.

"There are definitely some similarities. The glaring one is the style it's being committed," said Officer Roland Holmgren, the Oakland Police spokesman.

Diners we spoke with Thursday had all heard about the robberies and their reactions were mixed.

"I don't think I'd go out to eat at night, as we always do but I don't think I'd do that anymore until this is over with," said Yamita Anderson, a restaurant diner.

"No, no I'm not going to let these bullies push me around," said Regina Hosier, a restaurant diner.

The Fat Lady Restaurant has been around for more than three decades. Owner Pat Rossi says she has a security system with a silent panic alarm which will trigger a police response. She hopes the robberies wont intimidate the public from eating out.

"If you change your lifestyle because of fear, then you'll be your own prisoner and we can't live that way," said Rossi.

If you find yourself in an armed takeover, police say you should comply unless the gunmen leave you no choice.

"If it comes to that point where you have to defend your life, by all means you defend yourself. What we don't want you to go out there and play a hero role where this could escalate into something," said Holmgren.

Well the Furenzu Restaurant does have a video surveillance camera, but it was unfortunately not turned on Wednesday night. It is open Thursday night and the camera will be on. Oakland, Berkeley, and Emeryville police will be investigating these takeovers to see if they are related, or if there are some copycat robberies in there as well. Oakland Police are offering a $5,000 reward.

To view a Google map of the locations of the different East Bay robberies, click here.


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