Catch of the day: Sushi chef helps foil attempted robbery at Kamakura

Catch of the day: Sushi chef helps foil attempted robbery at Kamakura

CHAMPAIGN — An Ogden man who apparently needed cash to pay a drug dealer picked the wrong place to find it.

While allegedly trying to rob the hostess at Champaign's Kamakura Japanese restaurant (715 S. Neil St.) Tuesday night, Clayton Dial was confronted by a knife-wielding sushi chef, two other loyal co-workers who held him until police arrived (and who got in a few licks as they waited) and a circuit court judge who witnessed part of the confrontation.


State's Attorney Julia Rietz said Dial, 23, was charged Wednesday with attempted aggravated robbery, intimidation and aggravated battery following his ill-conceived attempt to get cash. He was being held in the county jail in lieu of $100,000 bond and is due back in court with a lawyer on Jan. 7.

The crime started around 7:20 p.m. Tuesday when a man entered the restaurant, stepped to the cash register just inside the door, pulled what appeared to be a revolver from his waistband and demanded cash from the hostess.

"He just stood there and started asking for money," said Tetsuji Miwa, the 39-year-old sushi chef who was only a few yards away from the 17-year-old female hostess. "I saw her face. She was very scared."

"I heard him the second time. He said, 'Give me your money. Open the drawer.' That's when I instantly grabbed my sushi knife, walked up to him, wrapped my arm around his shoulder and asked him what he wanted. He saw the blade, got scared and started running," Miwa said.

By then, waitress Aichan Mitsuhashi-Acs had alerted other employees that a robbery was happening. General manager Yuji Niizuma and assistant manager Joe Pendzialek came running from the kitchen while Mitsuhashi-Acs phoned 911.

"Tet was halfway out the door. We could see him with the knife," said Niizuma, who said he and Pendzialek instinctively came to the aid of their friend and coworker.

"We didn't have a choice because he was engaged in the fight," Niizuma said.

"Tet's got kids," Pendzialek added.

The employee trio ended up in the parking lot, where they got Dial on the ground and were struggling to control him as he fought back.

Pendzialek said on the way out he grabbed a small stool near the front door "and cracked him over the head with it."

Miwa said he hadn't seen a gun but Niizuma had. Dial still had it in his hand, and Niizuma said that while Pendzialek had Dial in a chokehold, he punched Dial's arm until Dial let go of the gun. Niizuma didn't know then that it was a pellet gun.

Mitsuhashi-Acs said Pendzialek kicked the gun away and she picked it up to get it away from the fracas.

Champaign County Judge Arnold Blockman, meanwhile, had just parked his car, intent on picking up a to-go order of sushi for him and his wife to eat at home while watching the Kennedy Center Honors on television.

"I saw two people running out of the restaurant. My first thought was it was some kids chasing each other. As they got to the other side of the parking lot, somebody fell and I saw somebody beating on someone and one of the waitresses just standing in the parking lot screaming with the phone."

"I went inside and the poor cashier was just traumatized. She was sitting there with the money," Blockman said.

Blockman said he later spoke with Miwa.

"I said, 'You've got to be really brave to go after someone with a knife.' It's almost comical, but it was so frightening," Blockman said.

Miwa said the last thing he wanted to do was use his knife, but he would have if absolutely necessary.

"It's pretty expensive so I didn't want to damage it or use it. I was telling him, 'Don't make me use this.' As soon as the other two managers came out, I set it down to the ground very carefully because I didn't want to damage my blade," said Miwa, an eight-year employee of Kamakura.

He, Niizuma and Pendzialek were so preoccupied trying to subdue Dial, they didn't notice, as had Blockman and Mitsuhashi-Acs, that Dial's getaway vehicle was getting away.

A white van driven by Dial's girlfriend, Kelsey Cabellero, 23, who listed an address in the 500 block of North Russell Street, Champaign, was leaving the business. Police stopped it not far away and arrested Cabellero on an outstanding warrant. She had failed to appear in court Dec. 2 on a possession of a controlled substance charge filed in late October.

Rietz said that Dial admitted to police he has a drug problem and said he went in the restaurant to get money he needed to pay a drug debt. In 2009, he was given first offender probation for possession of a controlled substance, she said.

On Wednesday, the employees and the judge were still pretty pumped about the trauma.

Niizuma's right hand was still puffy and swollen from punching Dial's arm. And Miwa was using crutches for a sprained ankle. He wasn't even sure how that happened. Pendzialek wasn't hurt. And the hostess had attention from paramedics Tuesday night after hyperventilating from the scare.

Mitsuhashi-Acs said nothing like this has happened in the seven years she's worked at the restaurant. She wasn't scared.

"I was very confident. We had the situation under control. And the police had a great response time. They were fabulous," she said.

Blockman, meanwhile, marveled at the great service he received.

"I told the poor guy, 'This is a traumatic experience. Forget my order.' He said, 'No, we want to take care of you.' There were diners in the place who didn't even know what was going on. It happened so fast," Blockman said.

"That'll teach me to go out for sushi."

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areader wrote on January 01, 2015 at 4:01 am

I am sorry this restaurant was targeted, but I commend the employees who took care of the scumbag trying to rob their establishment!  

Local Yocal wrote on January 01, 2015 at 9:01 am
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For the sake of the restaurant employees and the defendants, let's have less incidents like this. What could be changed to produce fewer individuals from making this dumb and dangerous choice?

I vote:

1) Legalize drugs for the possession and sale to consenting adults*, and thus disempower the unsavory types who would strong-arm their customers for payment.

2) Fully fund substance abuse treatment, both in-patient and out-patient, so Clayton and Kelsey might have had some help before getting to this crazy point.

3) Ban The Steve Miller Band's rock song, "Take the money and run," from the airwaves.

*For those who reading comprehension is low, (and you know who you are,) Kelsey and Clayton deserve to be incarcerated in an asylum for trying to rob and scaring, fighting, and injuring the restaurant employees. [Why isn't Kelsey being charged with attempted armed robbery too since Mary Schenk, but not the state's attorney knows Kelsey was the get-away car?]  

ontheoutside wrote on January 01, 2015 at 10:01 am

Sure am glad no one was hurt here. The violent takedown of this offender is one for the books!  However, shouldn't these employees have been more sensitive? I mean hey, it was only a pellet gun!  If the police would have responded this way there would be civil unrest - brutality - and voices of the community asking why he wasn't pepper sprayed vs battered or heaven forbid, shot.   I mean, shouldn't they have just asked the offender if he had a real gun or not???   Where is the protest?

seriously- glad the employees were not hurt




Local Yocal wrote on January 01, 2015 at 12:01 pm
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"Where is the protest?"

"Kelsey and Clayton deserve to be incarcerated in an asylum..."

They are addicts strung out on [what drug Mary Schenk?] drugs. They are 23 years old. For how many decades do you want them in prison costing taxpayers $23,000 a year doing nothing? Whereas, one year in a serious in-patient drug program and one year doing dishes at a certain sushi restaurant for no pay would be actual justice and heal everybody concerned now that we know each other a little better. Oh wait, this is planet Earth, right?

So are the police going to approach Clayton for the info on his strong-arm drug dealer so that arrest can be made, and Clayton and Kelsey can get a sweetheart deal of a plea bargain? Not now, that The News-Gazette has made this front page one. Prosecutors won't want the embarrassment were leniency given to our two Bonnie and Clydes here.

Besides Prohibition would jeopardize the kid's safety were he to snitch now.

Molly1 wrote on January 01, 2015 at 6:01 pm

You suggest that this young female hostess be forced to work beside and with someone that held a gun on her?

At the time that she was very scared, she didn't know that it was only a pellet gun.

That had to be an extremely traumatic event in her life.

Forcing her to work with the man who did that to her...?  Beyond ignorant.

Arrest these two involved, and yes, go after the dealer that they were trying to pay off as well.

Local Yocal wrote on January 01, 2015 at 8:01 pm
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"Forcing her to work with the man who did that to her...?"

It could never be a force. It would never work if it were forced.

That the victims be compensated with free labor for a year is a hope taught in restorative circles but perhaps in this world, an unrealistic one since all of us are taught to hold grudges, fear, and hate anyone who attempts to rob us this way. Ironic the corporations will be allowed to exploit his near-free labor in prison but not the victims.  

Telebubby wrote on January 02, 2015 at 9:01 am

"Whereas, one year in a serious in-patient drug program"


One quick glance at their social media profile pages on Facebook would tell you that Clayton has already been to rehab. He clearly needs serious help but he hasn't seemed to learn his lesson yet and is still wasting tax payer and donated money. It's a lose/lose situation so far so it seems other options of help and therapies should continue to be pursued.


"one year doing dishes at a certain sushi restaurant for no pay"

That's unrealistic. Moral reasons aside, he most likely has to pay fines and fees now for the actions he committed against other people. Failing to pay those fines results in longer and harsher sentences, not to mention if he has a home/apartment and needs to pay his bills he could lose a lot of other things that increases the likeliness of criminalhood.

I'm not defending his actions, just being realistic and logical as to why working for no pay is a terrible idea and worse for his psyche in the long run. Things like that are the reason criminals continue to make bad decisions in life.

Not to mention prison kitchens are heavily regulated and the prisoners cannot leave the kitchens with kitchen objects or else they can get written up. Given the fact that Clayton was already willing to threaten harm on someone with a pellet gun and steal money from the register, why would one trust him around kitchen tools such as peelers and knives or cash? Increasing hostility and making employees uncomfortable in a work environment is never a good idea and opens the restaurant up to lawsuits, especially if customers know that a potentially violent criminal is working the kitchen and do not know what drama may ensue because of the relationship with his drug dealer and drug-addled girlfriend. Particularly since this story has made it to the public and is being passed around on social media.

Local Yocal wrote on January 02, 2015 at 10:01 am
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Comparing areader's extremely tax dollar expensive/play God analysis that Clayton Dial is a "scumbag," to Telebubby's more nuanced analysis shows the difficulty in judging another's life and what to do with it now that a serious violation to other humans has beyond-a-reasonable-doubt been committed.

"Clayton has already been to rehab,... but he hasn't seemed to learn his lesson yet and is still wasting tax payer and donated money... other options of help and therapies should continue to be pursued."

Here is the million dollar question the criminal justice system is completely inept at answering: how do you get people who are addicted to drugs off drugs? Don't know what other options are referred to, but here is the reality that the sick joke of Drug War has become: taking someone to prison is not much help toward beating a drug addiction. There is only one hour a-week in the county jail of drug intervention (a single volunteer does this in a group setting) and worse, the prisons are full of drugs getting brought in. (Note Vermillion County's new-found problem.) Setting aside the idea of "responsible use," our society is horrible at providing what might be considered healthcare to the poor. Our jails are becoming our "treatment" facilities where there is NO treatment.

"...working for no pay is a terrible idea and worse for his psyche in the long run."

And yet, the prison system will do exactly this anyway and the victims will receive zero benefit from his labor other than, "he's kept away from us." [But not for as long as they would imagine: average sentence in the DOC is 2.9 years.] Justice would require he do something FOR THE VICTIMS. We have a system that settles for revenge where the state gets paid to exact that revenge at extremely high costs to us. Posters are missing the one key component to this scenario of Clayton spending a year doing dishes at the very restaurant he tried to rob: the employees would agree to it. If they couldn't handle having him back in the kitchen with them, then it can't happen. There are experiments in Brazil and other places where these type of unimaginable scenarios are tried to great effect for all concerned over crimes more horrendous than this one.

The other requirement for this scenario to work is Clayton has been through at least a solid year of clean, sober, and counseled off his drug habits. If he's still entertaining violent drug dealers, still using, and still potentially a threat to steal and use threats to steal, then obviously he's not qualified for such a "payback in the kitchen doing dishes" either. How to trust another to have overcome their problems is the great mystery of our time. People who have been clean for years and years, doing lots of good can suddenly relapse without reason. (Melissa Lackey for example.) But it's worth the chance to take when someone turns it around and becomes a productive taxpayer instead of a huge (imprisoned) tax taker to put it in hard economic terms.

What we've got now for a systemic way to handle incidents like this is a system that will give zero restitution to the victims, a huge cost to us to lock 'em up in a dysfunctional place that can only make him worse, the state becoming his strong-arm bill collector, no one hiring his stupid ass now that he's done this, and there's a 50/50 chance he'll do the same damn thing again in less than five years. That's not justice, that's Einstein's definition of insanity.

areader wrote on January 01, 2015 at 3:01 pm

from your comments - "Shouldn't the employees been more sensative?"

Are you kidding?  Give me a break!

jparks wrote on January 01, 2015 at 9:01 pm

I think you missed the obvious sarcasm.

Mqqneyes wrote on January 01, 2015 at 10:01 am

Lets count the ways this could of went horribly wrong. I'm gonna sound to some people like a bleeding heart liberal, but this is nuts. Glorifying beating a man with a gun is crazy. I was involved in the same kind of thing once. The perps (2 of them) got away. Two hours later they shot and killed a guy over a fur coat at western bowl. It takes one pull of that trigger and this story is a tragedy. 

youlikeroses wrote on January 01, 2015 at 3:01 pm

Thank God his sushi knife wasn't damaged.

areader wrote on January 01, 2015 at 3:01 pm

Ontheoutside - are you SERIOUS????

If business owners start using force to defend what is righfully theirs, maybe the scumbags will think twice before walking into a restaurant and stealing something that doesn't belong to them or harming employees in that restaurant!  I'm sick of the Pansy A** way people react to a bad person committing a crime and thinking well, gosh--the robber wasn't really that bad!  I'll ask anyone, if he/she were the restaurant owner, would he/she be stupid enough to ask the robber if the gun was real?  I'm wouldn't give the person a chance to answer.  If they were harming one of my employees or taking money from the cash register, I'd do exactly what these folks did in this article!  People who think society owes them should not have the right to take something or even threaten a person for something that doesn't belong to them!      

rsp wrote on January 01, 2015 at 8:01 pm

And that's exactly how people get killed. They were lucky in this case. No the guy didn't have the right to rob them but what if it wasn't a pellet gun? What if it was real and it was loaded? It wouldn't matter if he meant to shoot it, he could have just panicked and pulled the trigger.

Or how about you pull out your gun and the two of you shoot it out in a crowd of people over what, a hundred dollars in the till? Versus a few people dead or injured?

How many people were injured in this story?

alabaster jones 71 wrote on January 02, 2015 at 7:01 pm
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Oh good Lord, actually thought that Ontheoutside's comment was genuine?  You really didn't recognize the blatantly obvious sarcasm?

ARE YOU SERIOUS???????????


airrecon wrote on January 01, 2015 at 9:01 pm least little Clayton Dork (and his lady friend Kelsey Dorkette) have learned a valuable lesson. NEVER BRING A PELLET GUN TO A SUSHI KNIFE FIGHT! It slices, it dices.......

Molly1 wrote on January 02, 2015 at 8:01 am


And in today's world with Concealed Carry folks around, don't bring a fake gun to a robbery.  If a person with CC had seen the robbery taking place, they might have shot him with a real gun and killed him while he was holding his toy.

Lucky for the robber he only got bruised and bloodied a little bit before being hauled off by the police department.


alabaster jones 71 wrote on January 04, 2015 at 12:01 am
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Here's a question to ponder:

Where are all of the posts calling this kid a "thug," and declaring that they don't feel safe living in this community because of him?

I wonder what could possibly be different about this case, so that it does not generate such commentary, as so many other articles on this website seem to?

What a puzzler....

Skepticity wrote on January 04, 2015 at 12:01 pm

I don't usually refer to people as "thugs" so I cannot explain the absence of such commentary other than to acknowledge your inferred point and agree that you may be right about the absence of such comments being related to racial prejudice on the part of some absent commentators. 

Historically the label "thug" was not related to race, but rather applied to those criminals who behaved with brutality in their criminal activity.  Tupac Shakur may have popularized the name as applied to blacks, but I believe it can still be applied to brutal criminals of any race. I can easily recall when the label "thug" was more often linked with enforcers in the Mafia than with black criminals.

I just don't think that labeling criminals of any race that way serves any useful purpose, so I don't. 


With regard to feeling unsafe in the community due to the acts of this specific criminal, I am extremely concerned any time someone undertakes robbery using force, and particularly with weapons.  The weapon in this case was not an actual firearm (though pellet guns can cause injury), but was used to create fear and terrorize the victims to gain cooperation during the robbery.  There have been far too many instances of muggings, armed robberies, and shootings in our community. The perpetrators need to face consequences that assure the safety of people in our community.


With regard to the robbery:

If the chef recognized that the gun was not an actual firearm, then his action in struggling with the robber was understandable. If he thought the gun was real, he endangered everyone by engaging in the struggle.  If he thought it was real and that lives were at stake, he should either have not done anything and cooperated with the robber, or he should have immediately applied lethal force to end the danger, regardless of the risk of damaging his knife.  Because the gun was a pellet gun, no one was killed or injured by an accidental or purposeful discharge of the weapon during the struggle. 

Whether or not they could benefit from drug treatment, the issue that needs to be addressed is community safety. The robber who threatened restaurant staff created a situation that endangered community members. The robber apparently has had past opportunity to use services for drug problems, but did not stop. The sentence needs to assure that he will not have the opportunity to place others in our community at risk in the near future, perhaps using a real gun next time. Because he committed the crime and endangered others, his personal needs for treatment come after that of the community need for safety.

With regard to changing the drug laws, I agree that the wholesale incarceration of users and the very fact of illegality has not solved drug problems, has made criminals of those who would not have been criminals, and has contributed to more crimes being committed to obtain the money for expensive illegal drugs.

However, at this point, in this case, people were endangered by an armed robber, and insuring that he cannot repeat this crime anytime soon should be the primary focus of the court. 

The next step will be to see what plea bargain will be offered to these perpetrators.  I expect I will comment on that in a year or three. 

alabaster jones 71 wrote on January 05, 2015 at 4:01 pm
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Well said.  I agree on all of your points.

Although I am very angered by the prison-industrial complex, and by the fact that the U.S. has by far the highest incarceration rate in the world, I have little to no sympathy for those who perpetrate crimes of violence.  Those are the type of people who truly belong in prison, and the type of people who society needs to be protected from.

I also agree that, although what these employees did was certainly brave, it was also not particularly responsible, and that their actions likely would have resulted in bloodshed if the gun had actually been real.

For what it's worth, I enjoy reading your posts, even though I don't always agree with them.  You're one of the few commenters here who seems able to think with nuance, instead of taking a strictly black-and-white view towards every issue.

Skepticity wrote on January 06, 2015 at 9:01 am

Thank you!  I have enjoyed some of your posts as well, though I don't always agree with everything...

I try to present views that maintain a balance in perspective, but reflect my fundamental skepticism.  I do not expect nor do I want total agreement with my views.  I do not support arguments based in emotional interpretations of events,.  Such arguments raise my level of skepticism.  I enjoy reading different viewpoints that are well reasoned and cause me to re-examine my own views. I support civility in the exchange of ideas. 

None of us have a monopoly on "truth". Like the old story of the blind men describing the elephant we benefit from differing perspectives that help us better understand the whole. I just hope that people will engage in the exercise of imagining themselves in the shoes of others before subscribing to the packaged narratives presented by the left and by the right.


alabaster jones 71 wrote on January 06, 2015 at 7:01 pm
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Challenging one's own views and values is certainly vital.  After a while, I've noticed that the people who are the most stubborn in their political beliefs are usually the same people who refuse to own up to or acknowledge any personal flaws or mistakes.  They are those narcisstic types who can't ever accept that they might possibly be wrong about anything.


Back to the political aspect of it.....I really do believe that there is a quiet majority of people in this country who aren't blindly partisan, and who don't particularly care which party a politician is from as long as the politician seems reasonably competent and honest.  I believe that there is a quiet majority of Americans who aren't raging tribalistic ideologues.  Sadly, these are the people who often don't even bother to vote, because they see no choice for them at the ballot box.  The louder, shriller, more dogmatic minority manages to hijack damn near every election and political issue in this country.  Both the blues and the reds view any deviation from the party line as treason.  

Yet, there are reasons to be hopeful.  Almost every other first-world country has strong third parties that consistently win elections, and even compete for the top positions.  Hopefully, one day soon, the United States will finally catch up with them.