Telegraph chess players ‘appalled’ after games halted by altercation with gun
Community chess games on Telegraph Avenue are suspended due to safety concerns after organizer Jesse Sheehan was injured trying to restrain a man who brought a gun to the tables, players say Chess, Sheehan and Berkeley Police.
California students, residents and passersby have been playing chess for free since last summer, when Sheehan organized community donations for a chess club at the corner of Telegraph Avenue and Haste Street.
On January 31, Sheehan and Brandon Buters, another chess club regular who goes by the name “Soul,” were involved in an altercation with a man who had in his possession a “12-gauge, side-loading shotgun.” gun-style mouth” at the tables, according to Berkeley police spokesman Byron White.
The three men were arrested. Sheehan was arrested on suspicion of assault with a deadly weapon and Buters was arrested for aggravated assault. The man with the gun was arrested on suspicion of carrying a concealed firearm and battery with bodily harm.
Sheehan said he was setting the tables that morning as he does every weekday when a man who had once threatened players at the tables arrived in the area. According to Sheehan, the man had indicated to a player and a coach a week earlier that he had a gun and wanted to shoot someone.
When the man arrived at the tables on Jan. 31, Sheehan said the man asked to play with him. Sheehan said he refused and started walking to his car to retrieve his cellphone with the intention of calling the police. At this point, Sheehan said he and Buters observed the man talking to each other and holding his bag in a disturbing manner.
Sheehan said the man then jumped on Buters, who pushed him away, and the man then lunged for his bag as Sheehan returned to the tables to block his access to the bag. During the ensuing altercation, Sheehan was able to grab the bag with the gun inside and cross the street to a local dispensary, who secured the gun inside. their doors.
“My adrenaline shot up, I screamed ‘Help, he’s got a gun,'” Sheehan said, adding that he then asked the clinic to call the police.
Police say Buters punched the man in the face multiple times, causing him “serious bodily harm” including a bloody mouth and a missing tooth. The man kicked Buters back, causing him an open wound that required stitches to his right ring finger. Police said Sheehan struck the man with a pipe, causing a visible injury to his arm.
“I said, ‘Man, I don’t want to hurt you, stay back! ‘” Sheehan recounted before hitting the man with the object. At this point, he said their objective was to hold the man until the police arrived on the scene. Buters and Sheehan were restraining the man when the police arrived, and Sheehan said it would have appeared to the officers that “at first glance it was two white people hitting a black person”.
Sheehan and Buters were handcuffed, Sheehan said, while officers spoke to the other man and eventually recovered the gun and bag from the nearby dispensary.
Sheehan, Buters and the man found with the gun were all incarcerated in Santa Rita Jail and released on bail or bond and receiving treatment at local hospitals. Buters and Sheehan said Tuesday they are still recovering and trying to stay positive about the potential consequences ahead. Sheehan was the only one to post bail, while Buters and the other man were cited free, according to police.
The three men have not yet been charged, according to records from the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office.
Sheehan hasn’t officially hosted the games since Jan. 31. He was never arrested in Berkeley and said he suffered from PTSD preventing him from returning to the area and inviting others to play there. Chess players who held their own game around the corner last week told Berkeleyside, they were devastated by what had happened and concerned about Sheehan’s injuries.
“With this looming threat…it’s one thing if people decide to pull out a board and play around, it’s another for me to set up a chess cafe and make it nice and safe. “Sheehan said, explaining that he can’t in good conscience host the games if he thinks patrons would be threatened.
He criticized Berkeley police for failing to restrain the man during his arrest and for failing to respond to reports that the man continued to threaten the group of chess players. After the man was released on bail, Sheehan said he was told he had returned to the area and had additional weapons and would return with them to harm someone.
“What I’ve seen from the Berkeley Police Department, they’re not interested in Telegraph Avenue security,” Sheehan added. “I don’t like the connotation of [the attack] with the chess club, but if it hadn’t been for our tables and chairs, he would have done it to someone on the sidewalk.
Sheehan is considering filing a restraining order against the man and has filed an additional report with UC police. He is due back in court in April.