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Suspect in strong-arm robberies arrested

Original post made on Nov 19, 2008

Palo Alto and Menlo Park police Tuesday night apprehended a suspect in at least some of the series of purse-snatch robberies in Palo Alto in recent weeks.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Wednesday, November 19, 2008, 12:12 AM

Comments (59)

Posted by Thankful, a resident of Ventura
on Nov 19, 2008 at 7:24 am

Good police coordination Palo Alto and Menlo Park. Keep it up!


Posted by Stern, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 19, 2008 at 7:45 am

Bravo! Good quick work. I'm glad the police responded so quickly.


Posted by Hmm, a resident of Midtown
on Nov 19, 2008 at 7:51 am

I am actually surprised that no one has made any comments on this yet. The suspect was from PALO ALTO AND NOT EAST PALO ALTO. Some typical PA residents think that all criminals come from EPA, well here you go. Not that I am an advocate of EPA, I always drive through there as fast as I can on the way to the Dumbarton and have a gun on me (yes, I have a concealed weapon permit) but people seem to jump to conclusions about where the crime is coming from. It is time for the PAPD to step up to the plate and set up some neighborhood watch teams or show people how to better protect themselves. Great job by Sgt. Afanasiev by the way!


Posted by Resident, a resident of Community Center
on Nov 19, 2008 at 7:52 am

The best thing to read from this story is that back up came from the Assistant Police Chief and a Captain. It is nice to read that these senior police officers are getting out on the street instead of sitting behind a desk 24/7.


Posted by sally, a resident of Midtown
on Nov 19, 2008 at 8:50 am

Good job, police. All good job by the victim to call out and attract attention. And good job by the neighbors to respond to the screams and help track down the assailant.


Posted by anon, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Nov 19, 2008 at 8:50 am

Awesome job papd!!!! Where are the haters now?


Posted by RS, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Nov 19, 2008 at 8:59 am

Whoever got that license plate, way to go. You gave the police the break they needed.


Posted by Enoch Choi, MD, a resident of Crescent Park
on Nov 19, 2008 at 9:04 am

Great job PAPD!


Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 19, 2008 at 9:07 am

Well done, to all concerned.


Posted by GMC, a resident of Midtown
on Nov 19, 2008 at 9:07 am

Its pretty incriminating when you're caught with the victim's belongings. Does this match the description of the suspect of the Middlefield robbery?


Posted by JustMe, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Nov 19, 2008 at 9:09 am

Dear Hmmm, If you don't allow some people to jump to conclusions, then they would never get any exercise.

I heard this report on the way to work this morning, and I too was stuck by the fact that he is a resident of PA, not EPA. It just goes to show that not every PA resident is CEO material.

It is also interesting that he fled to EPA, what are his ties to that city? Does he have any ties to the homeless project in PA? How long has he been living in PA vs how long the crime spree lasted? Does he have any previous police record? Does he have addiction issues? Does he have a job, family, friends, in the area, room mate or domestic partner, that would have been a couter-indicator to this kind of behavior? Did anyone in PA know him or was he a hermit? What is his history?

About his crimes: How did he select his victims? How did he use what was in the purses? Did he sell any of it and where? What did he use the money for, or was it just for fun?


Posted by anon, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Nov 19, 2008 at 9:17 am

what if that guy who was stopped by the Sgt was not the suspect? Would the haters say he was racially profiled?


Posted by very1silent, a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Nov 19, 2008 at 9:19 am

I doubt we'll ever learn all the details, but this is how good policing is done. You identify a person, and then you catch that individual.

Good job PAPD.


Posted by Mary, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Nov 19, 2008 at 9:22 am

Remember that Chief Johnson NEVER mentioned East Palo Alto. Not once, never. Others put words into her mouth that never came out.


Posted by Don G., a resident of Community Center
on Nov 19, 2008 at 9:23 am

Repeat what RS posted above...community involvement when the woman screamed and people came to her aid, followed the perp and then got a "complete" license number on the car. The police do the rest and it's the sweet sound of iron bars slamming closed on the guilty. That is teamwork the way it's supposed to work by both city agencies and by citizens.


Posted by Anon, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Nov 19, 2008 at 9:31 am

Great police work!! Now let's see if the media publicizes this great work half as much as how they publicized the chief's comments. I bet everyone forgets about this the next day.


Posted by janisw, a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Nov 19, 2008 at 10:18 am

Wonderful to hear that watchful neighbors combined with excellent police work made a difference! We need more of this and less finger pointing!


Posted by boxster, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 19, 2008 at 10:19 am

PAPD. Excellent Job. Feel a litte bit safer walking around the neighborhood at night.


Posted by Robert, a resident of Midtown
on Nov 19, 2008 at 10:32 am

Excellent job! Thank to both PDs for their hard work for our residents!


Posted by in my own opinion, a resident of East Palo Alto
on Nov 19, 2008 at 10:46 am

I am a female who has been a resident of East Palo Alto for almost 30 years, It may sound silly, but I can honestly say that for years, I've felt a lot safer walking around in my own E.P.A. neighborhood at random hours of the day AND night, which I've done several times, even alone or with my dog and not once have I been approached by anyone, on the contrary, if people see me, walking they simply say hi and keep going, and yet again, this is just me... but I've never felt 100% safe walking alone any where in Palo Alto after the sun goes down. All of these robberies that have happened lately in Palo Alto have made me feel as if tho I was right in feeling the way that I have been. It's such great news to hear that the person that has been responsible for these robberies has been caught and hopefully Palo Alto streets become safer for everyone. Great job to the officers that helped catch this person, and to the citizens that helped provide the essential clues needed!!


Posted by Neighbor, a resident of Crescent Park
on Nov 19, 2008 at 10:50 am

If this fellow lives on Alma then maybe he is also the person who has been robbing houses on Ramona - worth taking a look at.


Posted by wtg, a resident of Menlo Park
on Nov 19, 2008 at 10:56 am

Great job of sleuthing Sgt Afanasiev! Who cares where the suspect lived?! There are good and bad in all of us everywhere. I am hopeful that the authorites can determine if this guy was responsible for the other purse snatchings. Good luck!


Posted by anon, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Nov 19, 2008 at 10:58 am

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by Proud Palo Alto resident, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 19, 2008 at 11:03 am


Hail to Chief Johnson, and kudos PAPD and MPPD.


Posted by Leslie, a resident of Midtown
on Nov 19, 2008 at 11:06 am

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by Lori, a resident of East Palo Alto
on Nov 19, 2008 at 11:12 am

Great job on getting the license plate and for concerned citizens responding to emergency. Congrats to the PAPD on the arrest!


Posted by YouShouldKnow, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 19, 2008 at 11:14 am

Some people just don't get it. Our police chief never said anything about East Palo Alto. MAYOR FOSTER DID THAT. Chief johnson said black male suspect. According to the story above, she was correct in her description. Never would have caught him without the description, eh Mayors Foster AND Klien?

Do us all a favor, go back to your Mayorin' and leave the police work to the professionals.

Well done to ALL the P.D.'S involved. I hope this jerk gets the longest sentence possible.


Posted by Walter_E_Wallis, a resident of Midtown
on Nov 19, 2008 at 11:23 am

Walter_E_Wallis is a registered user.

Time to go with the intersection cameras. They might have nailed this Bozo quicker if they had a list of license numbers of cars entering and leaving a crime area. Of course some will call such a list an invasion of privacy.


Posted by Mayfield Child, a resident of Green Acres
on Nov 19, 2008 at 12:01 pm


For
JustMe .......
Wow, with your curious mind, you would make a GREAT policeman!!
You already asked the questions I was thinking about, thanks for sparing me the time to email!


Posted by K. LaPoint, a resident of Atherton
on Nov 19, 2008 at 12:23 pm

Just want to say a big THANK YOU to all who worked on this case so diligently.


Posted by YouShouldKnow, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 19, 2008 at 12:32 pm

No,justme is working on criminal profiler stuff. The cops don't have the time for that and its doubtful they'd get truthful answers anyway.

Now we have to worry about the court system doing its job.

It would be interesting to know if he has priors and if he is currently out on probation/parole now.


Posted by anon, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Nov 19, 2008 at 12:47 pm

I bet he has previous history for robbery.


Posted by musical, a resident of Palo Verde
on Nov 19, 2008 at 1:40 pm

you think Smith might be an alias? original...


Posted by To Mary, a resident of East Palo Alto
on Nov 19, 2008 at 3:01 pm

Actually, your charming chief DID mention E. Palo Alto, very specifically, just as she mentioned black men very specifically, but didn't give any info out on the white suspects. So this arrest (yay!!!) makes me wonder:

-Which robberies were the white man/men responsible for
-Since this suspect seemed to be targeting women, what about the suspect for those awful robberies against men, some of whom were injured?


Posted by Ronna Devincenzi, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 19, 2008 at 3:06 pm

On behalf of the California Avenue area that was affected by robberies, "Thank you!" for making Palo Alto safer. Two years ago, the Chamber of Commerce recognized 4 PA Firefighters & 4 PA Police Officers for their bravery. The wisdom, courage and know-how displayed by the officers involved in THIS case, especially during a time of public scrutiny, is equally admirable. Excellent work!


Posted by I gotta say it, a resident of East Palo Alto
on Nov 19, 2008 at 3:08 pm

HAHAHA to all the racist, classist nasties who wrote such awful posts about EPA, with their narrow, horrible assumptions - eat crow and take responsibility for your attitudes, judgements and biases. The guy lives in YOUR town, not MINE. But ok, I gotta say - I bet he has family/friends in EPA since he was caught there- and probably lives inEPA at one time or another.

Stay alert - with the holidays coming up, criminals are still looking for their next victim.


Posted by Mike, a resident of Crescent Park
on Nov 19, 2008 at 3:48 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by Justme, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Nov 19, 2008 at 4:03 pm

I gotta say it, careful there, you become what you hate, you know. That is a lesson MANY should learn.


Posted by Work?, a resident of Menlo Park
on Nov 19, 2008 at 4:14 pm

[Post removed due to same poster using multiple names]


Posted by I gotta say it, a resident of East Palo Alto
on Nov 19, 2008 at 4:16 pm

[Post removed due to same poster using multiple names]


Posted by To YouShouldKnow, a resident of East Palo Alto
on Nov 19, 2008 at 4:19 pm

Your chief DID talk about EPA, so you should get your facts straight. Mayor Foster responded to the chief's remarks - I wouldn't have responded the way Foster did, but she did respond as she saw fit.

EPA and PA are much more intertwined than many people are comfortable with.


Posted by I gotta say it, a resident of East Palo Alto
on Nov 19, 2008 at 4:20 pm

Not hate at all - justifiable anger for all the projected emotional garbage aimed at EPA.


Posted by Your Point?, a resident of Midtown
on Nov 19, 2008 at 4:21 pm

Hey, I gotta say it. He was "black & dirty smelling" according to the Daily Post's article AND was buying drugs in EPA. The article quoted the officer stating that you can't buy drugs over here but you can there. Your point is???


Posted by question, a resident of Midtown
on Nov 19, 2008 at 4:22 pm

How come YouShouldKnow is able to post multiple times but noone else is? I find this suspicious.


Posted by To Your Point, a resident of East Palo Alto
on Nov 19, 2008 at 4:26 pm

My point is: You can buy illegal drugs in *any* city, at high schools, residences, etc- you'd be naive to think otherwise. He probably immediately went to buy drugs right after the robberies.

Now it's time to of course tie him to as many crimes as they can prove and keep looking for the other robbers - unless of course he has committed all of them. It's one thing to steal, but to hurt the victims - that's worse.


Posted by Will he roll over on his dealers?, a resident of East Palo Alto
on Nov 19, 2008 at 4:27 pm

That would be a nice little holiday gift to law enforcement ;)


Posted by I gotta say it, a resident of East Palo Alto
on Nov 19, 2008 at 4:32 pm

There are multiple users on this computer, including one living in EPA and one in Menlo - nothing shifty, just different users.


Posted by This has affected 3 cities, a resident of Menlo Park
on Nov 19, 2008 at 4:48 pm

Sorry such a long post. These robberies have injured people, scared a lot of residents in 3 cities, shown the biases all around.

But of course, better the thug is off the street before the "hardcore" shopping begins for the holidays. I look forward to finding out more about this jerk. Did he attack just women? What's his criminal history? Are they looking at him for residential burglaries, too? I am sure more info will be forthcoming as it is revealed.

As an observer in much of this online posting, I must say that the weird attitude towards EPA is disturbing, puerile, mean-spirited and provincial. As a resident of a city with a wealthier westside than eastside, our town includes much rich diversity and many problems. PA residents could stand to learn more about EPA if they're so inclined, as well as look to themselves to take responsibility for their attitudes. All the defending of one of their own - the Hopkins boy - really just smacked of excuses for criminal behavior. Behind every criminal is a sad story - no matter where they live, that's just the fact of it. But it's no excuse. Reading the posts defending him but excoriating EPA - very, very telling and disturbing. PA really needs to grow up and lose the elitism - these 3 criminals living amongst you should be humbling you, but instead, it gives you yet another reason to feel superior, by defending the homegrown criminal! For shame.


Posted by YouShouldKnow, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 19, 2008 at 4:50 pm

I have that 'problem' as well. I have used a few different names when posting in a give and take when they were deleting those, but truth be told this ISP they are tracking has seven different users, 3 of whom DO follow these posts.


Posted by To YouShouldKnow, a resident of East Palo Alto
on Nov 19, 2008 at 4:58 pm

[Post removed due to same poster using multiple names]


Posted by YouShouldKnow, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 19, 2008 at 5:08 pm

Question? Are you really this dim? Doesn't anyone actually read AND comprehend anymore? Read again what the Staff wrote, Post removed due to ONE poster using MULTIPLE names'.

When some of us were chastised for this last week with a fair warning post by the deletion dude, I respected what they asked and am only using one screename.

And to resident of EPA? I believe if EPA was mentioned at all, it was in a more general context. I really don't believe most Palo Altans are so delusional as to believe we don't have our own criminal element right here in Palo Alto. If you have lived here for more than a few years, trust me, you KNOW.

That being said, we also know the more violent GANG activity is in EPA, and some were thinking this was gang initiation stuff.

Whatever it is, I am just happy the cops caught him. On to the next guy! Remember, there were other muggings, you still need to exercise good judgement when out and about!

Now if you will excuse me, I'll slink back off to posting in a suspicious manner...


Posted by Not surprised, a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Nov 19, 2008 at 6:00 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by Anonymous, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 19, 2008 at 8:43 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by Concerned Citizen, a resident of Midtown
on Nov 20, 2008 at 8:35 am

I'm wondering about the discrepancy in the descriptions of the robber in the two cases. The knee-length black coat doesn't correspond to the dark hooded sweatshirt, at least not any sweatshirt I've ever seen. I was surprised to see it reported in the Weekly that the two descriptions matched, in spite of this rather significant difference.

That doesn't mean the police didn't get the right guy, especially since his car matched the description given by the witness. But it does seem important to investigate the discrepancy in the clothing description.

Glad to hear that the police have a viable suspect, thanks to the quick thinking of the witness in getting that license plate. His or her memory is better than mine!


Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 20, 2008 at 8:43 am

A coat could have been found in the car!! Clothing descriptions are good, but can be changed easily. A long black coat is something that a victim would remember more than something less distinctive and it may have been his ploy to wear it then take it off so that he didn't fit the description!!


Posted by chimera, a resident of Stanford
on Nov 20, 2008 at 9:32 am

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by JP, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 20, 2008 at 10:34 am

Well, at least this article states the description of the criminal as a "black man". The Palo Alto Daily yesterday only reported height, weight, and clothing. Whether the person is white, black, Asian, Tongan, it needs to be in the description.


Posted by Layna, a resident of Stanford
on Nov 20, 2008 at 11:31 am

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by Concerned Citizen, a resident of Southgate
on Nov 29, 2008 at 10:37 am

I agree, Resident. Just wanted to hear whether the police found both pieces of clothing. Also a slightly more careful discussion of "descriptions matched" in the newspaper.

As I said, I don't mean to say the police didn't find the right person. It sounds as though they did, along with an understanding of some of the factors in the crime (mental health problems, possible drug abuse...)

When did the Daily Post article referred to above come out. Did they really say the phrase "black and dirty-smelling" or did they provide the description which included racial identification, clothing, and the like, and later mention other details, like signs of homelessness/mental illness like unkempt, smelly? I would find the first description shocking and offensive, as it suggests that dirty-smelling goes with black.


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