Unhoused man, angry about service at Berkeley Blue Bottle, attacks barista and Cal student

The UC Berkeley student was able to take a photograph of her assailant, which allowed police to identify him, BPD said.

Unhoused man, angry about service at Berkeley Blue Bottle, attacks barista and Cal student
Blue Bottle Coffee at 2118 University Ave. in Berkeley. Google Street View

A homeless man who became upset when his second free cup of joe at a local coffee shop was taking too long attacked the barista and a Cal student in downtown Berkeley this week, according to court papers.

Police say the man, 48-year-old Matthew Piraino, went into Blue Bottle Coffee at 2118 University Ave. on Tuesday and asked for a cup of coffee.

The shop provides one free cup of coffee per day to unhoused community members, police wrote in court papers, but Piraino had already gotten his.

A staff member agreed to make Piraino another cup anyway, police wrote.

But, while he was waiting, Piraino "became angry with how long it was taking and shouted at staff," according to the Berkeley Police Department.

He was then asked to leave Blue Bottle, but instead struck a barista — a 19-year-old from Berkeley — hitting him in the arm with an open hand, on the shoulder with a closed fist and then on the top of the head with a small green umbrella, police wrote in court papers.

Piraino then walked outside to University and Shattuck Avenue and struck an 18-year-old UC Berkeley student on the head in an unprovoked attack without warning as she waited to cross the street, police wrote.

The young woman, who is from Southern California, was able to walk away from Piraino, who appeared ready to hit her again, according to court papers.

She used her cellphone to take a picture of him before he left the area, police said.

Arriving officers recognized Piraino from the photograph and BPD found him nearby, at Shattuck and Center Street, and arrested him.

Both victims identified Piraino as their attacker, police wrote in charging papers.

Matthew Piraino. BPD

Piraino has a long history of East Bay arrests, according to records online, including 17 by the University of California Police Department dating back to 2016 and nearly a dozen by Berkeley PD.

In one of those incidents, police said Piraino stabbed a man in front of the North Berkeley Safeway, but charges do not appear to have been filed.

Piraino has, however, been charged with five other cases in Alameda County, all of them misdemeanors that resulted in probation terms due to plea deals, according to court records reviewed by The Berkeley Scanner.

In 2016, he was convicted of vandalism and placed on probation for three years.

In 2020, he was charged with two counts of elder or dependent adult abuse as well as battery on emergency personnel, then convicted of elder abuse and placed on probation through October 2023 as part of a plea deal.

In 2022, he was charged with battery, elder or dependent adult abuse, and intimidating a business or customers, according to court records. He was convicted of the latter two charges as part of a plea deal and placed on probation through February 2025.

Also in 2022, he was charged with assault with force likely to produce great bodily injury and disobeying a court order. He was convicted of the assault charge and placed on probation through October 2023.

The same year, Piraino was charged with two counts of battery as well as resisting arrest, all of which were dismissed due to a plea deal from one of his other cases that year.

This week, the Alameda County district attorney's office charged Piraino with two counts of misdemeanor battery.

Piraino's next court hearing was not listed due to his recent arraignment. But that date should become available soon.

As of Thursday, Piraino remained in custody at Santa Rita Jail.

No bail amount was listed as of publication time.

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