A man walks into a Walgreens…
Neighbors apprehend a thief in the act, but will he be back on the street?
••••• November 27, 2023 •••••
As I was waiting for a prescription to be filled at Walgreens around 3:30 in the afternoon, on Tuesday, November 7, I watched a thin, very hyper male, likely of European descent, probably about 5'10" with dark hair. He seemed to be on speed or some other stimulant. He was wearing a face mask, with a hoodie over his head, and carried two old backpacks. He appeared to be filling those backpacks with merchandise off the store’s shelves. He seemed to be choosing items carefully, and he spent about 45 minutes, though I did not notice which particular things he was interested in. I approached the individual and told him to put them back on the shelves or go to register and pay for them.
He refused. Instead, he headed toward the front door, attempting to leave the store with the two loaded backpacks. I stepped in between him and the door, blocking his exit, while I called the police. As I was attempting to prevent the thief's escape, another gentleman, who may not want to be identified - rushed in to help me.
The scuffle lasted a few minutes, but the thief pushed me down. From the ground, I saw him also push away the other man who came to my aid as he made his escape from the store with the stolen goods.
Fortunately, an off-duty San Francisco police officer happened to be on the street who likely recognized the behavior of the fleeing thief. Aware that his escape was implausible, or perhaps it was the ear-splitting sound of approaching police cars, the thief turned and ran back into the Walgreens. Mr. Kane and I, having regained our footing, were relieved to see the off-duty officer as we surrounded the thief and waited a few minutes for the San Francisco Police Department to arrive in force. The subject showed no more signs of hostility as the officers made the arrest.
They emptied his backpacks. The Walgreens clerk estimated that the stolen goods' value was over $1,000. SFPD claimed it was only about $880.
Aware that his escape was implausible, or perhaps it was the ear-splitting sound of approaching police cars, the thief turned and ran back into the Walgreens.”
Prop 47 changed the felony theft amount from $450 to $950. The proposition added section 459.5 to create a new misdemeanor offense called "shoplifting," punishable by up to 6 months in county jail. Shoplifting is defined as "entering a commercial establishment with intent to commit larceny while that establishment is open during regular business hours" where the value of the property does not exceed $950.
Later, I learned that the Police Department only charged the thief with one count of misdemeanor theft and two counts of misdemeanor battery. I also learned that he was released from custody at midnight on that same day.
I am informed that there is a hearing on Tuesday, December 5, at 9 am at the Hall of Justice. The case number is 230 794 853. The inspector is Officer Sibert. The arresting officer was Sayasawk Star #312, and the Company involved was Taraval Station Company I.
People are urged to call the SF District Attorney's office to demand felony theft charges be filed against the suspect. He stole over $950 in goods and attacked two people who were engaged in a citizen's arrest. I spoke to Sgt Doughty in the SFPD burglary office, who said, "contact your legislators" — in effect, "current laws give us few tools to jail criminals in cases of thief, property damage, and even assault."
Michael Antonini is a former Planning Commissioner and Westside resident.
November 27, 2023