So-Ass Murder in Berkeley’s Nightclub District

by Steed Dropout
January 30, 2012


As a hazy dusk settled over Berkeley’s So-Ass™ nightclub district, last week, two killers, turned the corner of Shattuck Avenue, at Emerson Street.

The killers were across the street from Smokey J’s barbecue joint, and close-by a barbershop — the legendary Don’s Headquarters, a neighborhood headquarters, and high-spirited conversational emporium.

The killers’ grey Honda matched the grey pre-massacre atmosphere in the sedate, upscale hood. The victim, a beloved neighborhood figure, nicknamed “Junior,” who had worked seven years with his uncle in the barbershop, was leaving the shop to watch B-ball with his friends around the corner.

Murder victim's favorite rib-house, and around the corner from the crime scene.
Photo by Ted Friedman.

Junior couldn’t afford C-span.

Even though he worked two jobs to support five kids (two from a previous marriage) and three with a wife in Hercules, Ca., a bedroom community, fifteen miles northeast of Berkeley.

But he missed the none-too-thrilling finale of the New York Knicks vs. Miami Heat, 99-89 yawner.

As he knocked on the door of his friend’s second story apartment, announcing, “it’s me, Kenny,” he was ripped to shreds by a fusillade of eighty bullets from two rapid-fire, semi-automatics.

In an attack, not unlike a drive-by shooting, more common in East Oakland’s gang-ridden neighborhoods, the Emerson Street apartment was riddled — Bonnie and Clyde style — as its occupants stumbled down a back stairway, fleeing for their lives.

While Junior’s friends fled their bullet-riddled apartment, one of the two gunmen emerged from his car, mounted the steps to the apartment, and filled Junior full of lead, just in case, his barrage had missed the mark.

Junior’s body plunged two floors to the ground. But Junior didn’t feel the pain, because he was already dead. The gunmen had made doubly sure of that. Junior had been hit twenty times.

The final executioner calmly descended the apartment steps to his car, slumped in his seat, and drove into the mist — unidentified.

Murder car turned left here onto Emerson Street. Photo by Ted Friedman.

When Junior’s B-ball-watching friends thought it safe to return to their apartment, a woman emerged from the smoking apartment which was still reeking of gun-powder. Opening the front door, and discovering Junior’s bullet-ridden corpse on the ground below, she screamed out to the neighborhood, “No…No…it’s Kenny.”

She continued her blood curdling screams, as neighbors were descending on the scene.

Kenny was DOA at a nearby emergency room.


Neighbors’ response, in the aftermath of the cold-blooded assassination have two themes. How could this happen here? And why did it happen to such a sweet guy as Junior?

The So-Ass™ neighborhood (South of Ashby on Shattuck), is a three-block historic enclave, which includes two out of three of Berkeley’s remaining nightclubs above San Pablo, Avenue. San Pablo is closer to San Francisco Bay than to Berkeley

Formerly a middle-class black neighborhood, where the Black Panthers were headquartered in the sixties, So-Ass is now gentrified, in the aftermath of escalating Berkeley property values.

Beneath the surface, So-Ass residents may wonder, who will be next, and what effect this may have on property values.

So-Ass Nightclub, two blocks from murder.Photo by Ted Friedman.


If you don’t think naming murders is important, you never heard of the “Black Dahlia”
murder case, January 15, 1947, in Leimert Park, Los Angeles, an unsolved case, in which Elizabeth Short, 23, was murdered.

Short’s severely mutilated body had been found nude and severed at the waist, completely drained of blood. Her face had been slashed from the corners of her mouth toward her ears, creating an effect called the Glasgow smile. The body had been washed and cleaned and she had been “posed” with her hands over her head and elbows bent at right angles, according to newspaper accounts.

Short’s murder inspired books, and movies, set the tone for a generation of film noir, and aroused the public’s appetite for gruesome crimes, which had been whetted by Poe, Stevenson, and Doyle.

Perhaps we are hard wired to name. If we can name it, we can understand it. Black Dahlia defies comprehension. Robert Louis Stevenson’s, “Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde” (1886), in England, and Edgar Allen Poe’s, “The Murders in the Rue Morgue,” 1841 — we can’t get enough.

Sherlock Holmes, aka Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, named his murders; (eg. “Manor House Murder”).

In an early blitz of media attention, 1892, Lizzie Borden killed her parents with an axe . . 40 whacks, as America’s first (hip-hop) pop-hit lyrics went, and brought us into the age of lurid murder coverage, and spawned the meme — axe murder.

Lurid? Isn’t that our “paper’s” motto? The lurid stories behind the lurid stories?

It is, and we assure our readers we will unearth whatever lurid stories we can, behind the murder last week in Berkeley’s So-Ass™ Nightclub district — and we will take you behind the scenes at Berkeley Reporter to reveal how our staff of cracked investigators named this hail-of-bullets crime.

Weird-ass wellness spa, one-half block from murder scene in up-scale So-Ass neighborhood. Photo by Ted Friedman.


We met the murder victim and his Uncle, back in October on “assignment” for the Berkeley Daily Planet, which, several years ago, was located in a building next door to Kenny and his uncle Don’s barbershop.

We were blown away by the fifties music, and the hearty patter. We vowed to go back from time to time, but that doesn’t happen in the news business.

Although, we felt some of the pain of the gruesome killing, we had to face up to our purple journalism credo, and soldier on, for you, dear reader. It’s called “splitting” in psychology — disgustedly exploitive, in general parlance.

So we held a contest, here at BR, to name the crime.

The candidates, nominated by our sick-ass staff: the Bonnie and Clyde Murder; the Hail of Bullets Murder; the B Ball Massacre; the Rain of Bullets Murder; and, the So-Ass™ Murder.

So-Ass™ Murder ranked #1, followed closely by Bonnie and Clyde Murder, #2. We thought Hail-of-Bullets, #3, rather weak, but it was the name of music performers, so we used it as a subhead. B Ball Massacre was whacked, and misleading, although we know people have been killed in connection with the sport. Rain of Bullets Murder, #4. What the fuck?

Can’t believe you read to the end of Steed Dropout’s latest purple-prose crime yarn? Follow him at the Berkeley Daily Planet, as Ted Friedman, where he will soon contribute a piece on Mental Health in Berkeley and in Dropout, or read the longer version here — previously published.

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