Three Recent Violent Tales
from Berkeley's Notorious Caffe Mediterraneum

By Ted Friedman
Thursday January 24, 2013 - 11:38:00 AM
Officer peers into "almost stolen" cop car outside Cafe Med last week. The interior showed signs of a struggle.
Ted Friedman
Officer peers into "almost stolen" cop car outside Cafe Med last week. The interior showed signs of a struggle.
Berkeley Police inspect their "almost stolen" squad car for damages.
Ted Friedman
Berkeley Police inspect their "almost stolen" squad car for damages.
Craig Becker in his pit and pendulum at the Med recently.
Ted Friedman
Craig Becker in his pit and pendulum at the Med recently.
"Lost," X-Mass Eve near the Med.
Ted Friedman
"Lost," X-Mass Eve near the Med.

Tale One: Purloined Food at Med; How Secure is Your Food Order?

Coconut—a street kid, who hangs out on Telegraph near the Caffe Mediterraneum, 2475 Telegraph—grabbed off a plate of food from the Med's kitchen take-away counter, Dec, 27. 

The food was purchased by a customer named Larry, according to Becker. "Coconut stole my food," Larry told him. Coconut, 23, is a well known street kid who has been on the streets for seven years, according to Slumjack Homeless, a former reporter for Change.Org. 

Coconut put the plate of food on the sidewalk outside the Med. Becker, who was watching through the window, rushed out, snatched back the plate, and returned it to his cafe. When Coconut saw that Becker had reclaimed the food, he angrily overturned a plastic trash can, according to several witnesses. 

Becker re-emerged from the cafe to correct the trashing. As he approached Coconut, saying, "you can't do that," Coconut sucker-punched Becker, dropping him to the walk, on his back, according to several witnesses who added that Becker sprang back to his feet like "a pop-up toy." 

Back on his feet instantly," he quickly kicked Coconut in his scrotum and simultaneously face-punched him, flooring the kid. When Coconut got up, he had lost the urge to fight, witnesses said. 

"Clean it up," Becker commanded, and Coconut meekly complied, witnesses said. 

Becker has no formal fighting experience other than high school wrestling, he says. 

"i just respond instinctively," Becker explains, adding that "I have to feel that troublemakers are not cooperating, before I take action." 

Becker called the police, who arrested Coconut. Coconut spent four days in county jail, according to Coconut. 

"Whatever Craig says about this is his delusion," Coconut said recently. "I didn't steal no food. My brother bought it for me." 

Asked about the fight, Coconut said it wasn't a fight. Someone disagreed. 

"Okay, if you say it was a fight who do you think won?" Coconut asked. 

Becker won hands down," someone replied. 

He had been unwilling to talk, but this drew him out. "Craig is delusional," he repeated. "I won that fight." 

After also denying it was a fight, Becker said," he's [Coconut] delusional," Who was deluding whom? 

Tale Two: Shooting-Up in the Mediterraneum Stairwell

A few nights later, a Winona Ryder look-alike shot up on the Med stairwell by the restroom and defecated on the restroom floor. "I called the police to offer the girl help," Becker told me. "a young, good-looking girl like that," he added. 

Two Berkeley PD officers, with hard-nosed reputations, showed up. With Berkeley Mental Health outreach services decimated by budget cuts , police have filled in. The girl declined assistance. She was not cited, according to one of the soft-noses. 

Tale Three: A Tale of Attempted Cop Car Theft

Here's what one witness told police, who were taking information for their incident report. "Joe couldn't get into the Med restroom. There was a long restroom line, and Joe propelled himself into my table, almost falling over the mezzanine railing. At the foot of the mezzanine stairs, he pissed on the floor." 

Then he went to the front doors, where he announced to an astonished first-floor crowd, "anything you want. It's on me," according to Lost, who said Joe was tweaking (high on Meth). 

Joe bolted the cafe and hopped into an empty BPD cop car outside the Med, according to witnesses. Although the keys were not in the car, Joe seat-belted himself, as if he were about to peel out, witnesses reported. 

A BDP officer tried unsuccessfully to yank Joe from the car by his hair, but had to settle for pulling him out the hard way, witnesses said. 

By the time I got there police were gathered around the car. One officer was peering into the car, but avoiding entering it. Joe was gone--off to the pokey and facing serious charges. 

Next day, a Med employee told me that the Med was having much more violence under Becker than under the previous owner. 

Ted Friedman has contributed to the Berkeley Daily Planet, The Daily Cal, and Berkeley Reporter, where he is featured. His photojournalism is being noticed.