Terror in Berkeley Bar : Hostage Drama Ends With Gunman, 1 Student Slain

From Times Wire Services

A squad of police today stormed a bar near the University of California campus and gunned down a heavily armed man who had killed one student and held others hostage for seven hours of terror and sexual perversion.

Lt. Jim Polk, commander of the police SWAT team, said the gunman, described by witnesses as an Iranian in his 30s, had been undergoing violent mood swings and there was fear he would harm his hostages, so the decision was made shortly after 7 a.m. to rush the bar rather than wait him out.

Members of the six-man SWAT team found the gunman at one side of the room, the hostages at the other, and they opened fire, Polk said.

The gunman--identified by UC Berkeley spokesman Ray Colvig as Mehrdad Dashti--was naked and bleeding when he was put into an ambulance and taken to Highland Hospital. He was dead on arrival, hospital spokeswomen Phyllis Brown said.

Twenty-three hostages were taken to police headquarters to give statements to officers. Police Capt. Philip Doran said Dashti was angry over his failure to obtain a government loan to attend the university.

The gunman began shooting sporadically at patrons inside Henry's bar in the Durant Hotel, a block south of the UC Berkeley campus, shortly after midnight, Doran said.

He spent the next seven hours sporadically firing shots and sexually harassing his white female hostages, witnesses said.

Phil Kim, an architecture student who escaped early in the siege, said Dashti forced female hostages to "drop their pants" and forced the male hostages to sexually molest them "with carrots he brought with him."

Polk said Dashti had several weapons, including a machine pistol similar to an Uzi.

Initially, more than 20 people were held hostage at gunpoint, but several escaped or were allowed to leave as the standoff continued, leaving about 20 patrons inside with the gunman.

Two women released from the bar said Dashti appeared irrational and ordered non-white appearing women to "run out and tell the police . . . that they had done this to me. This isn't my fault I wrote several letters to your FBI."

Local hospitals reported receiving at least eight gunshot victims. One of them, John G. Sheehey, 22, a UC Berkeley student, died of his wounds.

Chris Hobbs, 20, a UC graduate student, was in fair condition with a gunshot wound to his thigh, Eden Medical Center spokeswoman Cassandra Phelps said, and student Rebecca Davis, 21, of Berkeley, was in fair condition with a leg wound at Kaiser Permanente Medical Center in Oakland.

A wounded police officer was treated at Highland General Hospital and released. Two victims were admitted into the hospital, a man who was shot in the left shoulder and a woman with numerous gunshot wounds, including at least one in the chest, spokeswoman Deborah Yamamoto said.

A woman and a man were treated for gunshot wounds and released from Alta Bates Hospital in Berkeley, a hospital spokeswoman said.

One hostage, Ken Young, 21, a Berkeley senior from Ventura, said there were about 75 people in the bar, some of them attending a birthday party, when the incident began.

"At the first shots, everybody hit the floor, just like in a movie," Young said.

Witnesses said the gunman would fire several shots and then fall silent for 15- to 20-minute periods.

San Francisco police said a warrant was issued Sept. 17 for Dashti's arrest on grand theft charges.

Police spokesman Jerry Senkir said fraud investigators believed a bookkeeper at the La Nouvelle Patisserie bakery chain stole checks worth $16,950 and gave them to Dashti, who put them in a bank account under an assumed name and withdraw the money.

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