Gunman holds 33 hostages 7 hours before being shot in Calif. standoff

September 28, 1990|By Los Angeles Times

BERKELEY, Calif. -- For more than seven hours early yesterday, a well-armed gunman with an apparent grudge against American blondes took over a popular college pub, taunting and terrorizing 33 patrons after he killed one student and wounded seven other people, including a policeman.

The gunman, Iranian-born Mehrdad Dashti, 30, was fatally shot in a brief gunbattle with police who stormed the pub at 7:23 a.m. (10:23 a.m. EDT), first tossing in "flash-bang" devices that permitted the hostages, many of them students at nearby University of California, Berkeley, to escape out the back and side doors.

Berkeley police described Mr. Dashti as "deranged," and a county health department document found in his apartment reportedly listed him as a paranoid schizophrenic. Mr. Dashti had told San Francisco police last year as they investigated a stolen checks charge that he was the "victim of a government experiment" on his mind. An arrest warrant was issued for him last week.

During a siege that seemed as grotesquely puzzling as it was frightening, Mr. Dashti had lined up hostages like "human shields" in front of the pub's windows.

The tense night was made more harrowing by Mr. Dashti's bizarre demands and his odd mood swings -- such as shooting out the bar's lights, then apologizing for the cascade of broken glass, or ordering hostages to yell and scream every time he fired a shot into the ceiling. Stripped down to a loincloth, he ranted for hours inside the bar, witnesses and hostages recounted.

He harangued American women as "slutty" and singled out blond female hostages for sexual abuse, forcing them to "drop their pants" and directing male hostages to sexually molest them, said Phil Kim, an architecture student who escaped earlier in the siege.

Through a hostage who spoke with police on the telephone, and by statements Mr. Dashti ordered other hostages to shout through the broken window panes, he demanded that the San Francisco police chief appear on television with his pants down and asked to be on television himself. He complained about being turned down for a student loan at Berkeley, and asked to meet with former CIA director Richard Helms.

All the while, police said, Mr. Dashti -- who has been in the United States since 1978 -- drank beer -- despite what his roommate called his strict Moslem teetotaling.

One woman who was allowed to leave told reporters that Mr. Dashti "kept repeating, 'I don't want to kill anybody,' and he kept firing his gun."

He also allowed non-white-looking women to leave, telling them to notify police that "they had done this to me. . . . This isn't my fault, I wrote several letters to the FBI."

Douglas Moore, 25, the bar manager and a student, recounted: "He had something against Americans. . . . He accused women of showing too much leg. He accused them of wearing tight skirts, short skirts. He said it was that kind of trash that was leading guys like him on and that they deserved to be punished. . . . He did a pretty good job of degrading the women."

Mr. Dashti had been dating a blond student who called him regularly, Mr. Dashti's roommate Frederick Smith recounted, but less than a month ago, Mr. Dashti had asked his roommate, who is black, 'Do you know any black women I can marry?' "

As police negotiators called from within the hotel, Mr. Dashti also relayed his demands by forcing hostages to shout out to police.

It was Mr. Dashti himself who screamed at times, "When is it going to end? How long? How long?" He paced the room, sometimes moving furniture around, hostages said, and would "alternate between hyper and coming down," said police Lt. Jim Polk, the field commander.

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.