Ashkenaz Employees Recovering after Berkeley Robbery

Sasha Lekach (BCN)
Tuesday March 19, 2013 - 09:57:00 PM

The managing director of a Berkeley music venue is recovering along with another employee who was shot during a robbery at the center early Saturday morning, a center spokesman said. 

Larry Chin, who has worked at Berkeley's Ashkenaz Music and Dance Community Center for about 30 years, was shot in the head just after midnight Saturday and another employee was struck in the arm at the center located at 1317 San Pablo Ave., Joe Balestreri said. 

The Ashkenaz Music and Dance Center is an international music and dance venue and teaching center. 

Chin was expected to be released from the hospital today, Balestreri said, and to go to his Concord home to continue his recovery. 

The other employee, who has worked at Ashkenaz for about five years, underwent an operation Sunday and is expected to fully recover, Balestreri said. 

The two were shot early Saturday morning when two armed suspects entered the center and demanded cash. The suspects shot and wounded Chin and the other employee before fleeing, Berkeley police said. 

Officers arrived on the scene within moments and attempted to stop one of the suspects who was fleeing from the area. 

The suspect ran into a yard and officers surrounded the block. 

Police conducted a yard-to-yard search of the area with the aid of an Alameda County sheriff's K-9 deputy and found the suspect hiding behind a building in the 1300 block of San Pablo Avenue. 

Police have not released the name of the suspect who was arrested. As of this afternoon, the second suspect remains at large.  

Balestreri, who has worked at the venue for 16 years, said this weekend a series of events were held for the center's 40th anniversary and continued as planned despite the early morning violence. 

"We felt a real solidarity over the weekend," he said with many supporters and former employees coming to anniversary events after hearing about the shooting.  

"All went well and smoothly and peacefully," he said. 

Before Saturday night's show a community leader led a prayer and ceremony for the two shooting victims, he said. 

The violent robbery has prompted Ashkenaz staff to re-evaluate their security policies, Balestreri said. 

Balestreri said the center is looking into having security staff and having less cash out. 

A security camera at the front door captured some of the violence and the footage has been given to Berkeley police investigators, he said. 

"I still feel completely safe here," he said, emphasizing the staff's prime concern is keeping patrons and employees protected. 

Balestreri said the community is generally peaceful and this was only the second violent incident in the venue's 40-year history. 

Those wishing to send donations or get well letters can find contact information on the center's website at www.ashkenaz.com. 

Anyone with any information about the robbery and shooting is asked to call the Berkeley Police Department at (510) 981-5742 or (510) 981-5900. Those who wish to remain anonymous may call Bay Area Crime Stoppers at (800) 222-8477.