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Man robs Palo Alto Walgreens for OxyContin

Original post made on Dec 3, 2012

Palo Alto police have released a photo of a man suspected of robbing the downtown Walgreens by showing a concealed gun on Monday afternoon, Dec. 3. The man allegedly walked into the drug store at 328 University Ave. shortly before 2:34 p.m., went to the pharmacy department and asked for help finding an over-the-counter medication.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Monday, December 3, 2012, 3:03 PM

Comments (35)

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Posted by James
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 3, 2012 at 3:13 pm

This sort of thing happens a lot, nationwide, at many of these opiate drug dispensaries. They stopped this sort of crime, for the most part, at the cannabis dispensaries when they put security at the door verifying the legitimacy of the patient before they are allowed in. I wonder if the opiate dispensaries need to start doing this too. They're cranking out far more powerful drugs so I'm not surprised crime is following. Stay safe...might want to keep your kids out of the prescription area.


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Posted by usical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Dec 3, 2012 at 3:36 pm

... fled the store westbound down University Avenue and turned left onto Bryant Street? Isn't Bryant right there, like he did a U-turn out the front door? Anyway, the handgun is the scary part. Even with a permit, I don't think it's legal to pull it on a pharmacist. Odd that he headed directly for the police station. Surely it could not have been the safest escape route, eh?


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Posted by Ken
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 3, 2012 at 3:56 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


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Posted by safer
a resident of Green Acres
on Dec 3, 2012 at 3:57 pm

cannabis would not cause this behavior. drugs are non good. cannabis is only safe substance. love and learn...maybe?


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Posted by Sick of this
a resident of Community Center
on Dec 3, 2012 at 4:16 pm

Junkies usually have no fear of the police, and are driven to desperate acts by their craving, hence the brazen behavior. Plus, PAPD is not all that intimidating, being more PR concerned than concerned with crime.


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Posted by sick of it too
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 3, 2012 at 4:44 pm

We reap what we sow concerning PR vs actual crime fighting. For example: the useless Independent Auditor report (Mitchell park library, etc etc) that we pay into every year, who everyone always has an opinion about, regardless of how ignorant that opinion may be. We always think we know better and chastise or state things like "PR concerned" about them when it is our town who has demanded that from them. That extra money could be spent on getting more cops out there to try and stop this madness!


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Posted by Harry C.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 3, 2012 at 4:46 pm

This guy was not scared in the least, to walk in there on University in broad daylight with a gun? Bryant is the street past the old Apple store, he waked that far after pulling off this caper? Where are the cops in this town? What we need is someone to stop these punks in their tracks, I say we STEP IT UP and get some cops walking downtown or on bikes full time. This time of year is really bad, the whole downtown area is getting really creepy. Cmon cops, lets stop this mess before someone gets hurt!


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Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Dec 3, 2012 at 5:21 pm

Apologies for getting snarky on my first post (I dropped my m in the excitement). I'm just getting fed up with the crime here in my home town. That's "my" Walgreens. Six weeks ago it was my credit union. Police can't be everywhere, and really can't do much other than lock people up and watch the courts let them out again.


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Posted by More-Surveillance-Cameras-Needed
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 3, 2012 at 5:48 pm

And once again--no mention of surveillance cameras having pictures of the perp to help the police out.

Too bad .. but any of you folks happen to frequent this store--maybe you might ask to see the manager, and explain your surprise at the lack of precaution on the part of the store.


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Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Dec 3, 2012 at 6:09 pm

Yes, the latest update of the article does have a video frame from the front door surveillance camera. I know the store has other cameras as well. Two hours 45 minutes after the fact is not too bad a delay for publication. The responding officers probably got this played back to them within a few minutes.


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Posted by Peter Mandell
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 3, 2012 at 6:11 pm

There is no reason to believe that the homeless are more prone to crime than those who have a roof over their heads. This is pure class prejudice on your part. Think Lazarus and Dives ((Luke 16:19'31).

Father Peter Mandell


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Posted by Blank
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 3, 2012 at 6:18 pm

The surveillance photo is a cellphone picture of a monitor screen? The police couldn't figure out how to properly convert this footage? Hopefully this is being sorted right now because maybe the public could identify him if we had an actual resolution image.


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Posted by Sick of this
a resident of Community Center
on Dec 3, 2012 at 6:25 pm

Obviously there need to be A LOT of surveillance cameras downtown. BUT, we are further stymied by the fact that PAPD is short at least twelve cops. Obviously, all the local criminals know this, and know that it easy to commit a crime here in PA and get away with it!

With the enormous cost and property tax rate of living here, one would think that we would be better protected.


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Posted by More-Surveillance-Cameras-Needed
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 3, 2012 at 6:29 pm

> surveillance picture in update

I stand corrected. However, the picture is almost useless, as is.

No good reason that any surveillance system today doesn't have an "export" function that outputs a common digital format, like .AVI or .MP4.

> no reason to believe homeless commit crimes ..

Well, before one makes such a statement, it couldn't hurt to look at the police statistics. Here's a compelling read from the city of Columbia, SC:

Web Link

It's a shame the Palo Alto Police don't seem to provide the people of Palo Alto the same stats as the police in Columbia.


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Posted by Ken
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 3, 2012 at 6:43 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


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Posted by Peter Mandell
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 3, 2012 at 7:06 pm

Ken,
Of course, the homeless problem here and elsewhere needs to be solved! And the homeless are dirty, they stink, they dirty the place - all of which is incompatible with their worth and dignity as persons. So we should address issue as you suggest - and should do so quickly in a manner that does not discount the rights and humanity of the homeless.

My objection was to your stating that this gun-toting bandit was a homeless person. Since when did the homeless start carrying guns, and robbing pharmacies at gunpoint? I'll bet you this robber was no "homeless bum." Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.

Tangentially, since when did mainstream Christianity become a "cult" in Palo Alto?

(And, if it matters, I am no bleeding-heart, left-wing Obamaite either. I voted for Romney for several reasons including legalized abortion.)

Father Peter Mandell


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Posted by More-Surveillance-Cameras-Needed
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 3, 2012 at 7:36 pm

> When did the homeless start using guns ..?

The link below reports on a robbery where a homeless person used a gun--

Web Link

without police stats .. it makes no sense to make claims about anything involving the homeless and crime.


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Posted by Peter Mandell
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 3, 2012 at 7:50 pm

Before we start bandying statistics around, let us get the facts in this case. What this specific robber a homeless person? From downtown Palo Alto?

If true, then I stand corrected and I will shut up.

Otherwise, you are just jumping on this opportunity to slander and accuse the poor, those who have no voice on this august forum.

The facts, Ma'am. Just the facts.

Father Peter Mandell


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Posted by Belle
a resident of College Terrace
on Dec 3, 2012 at 7:52 pm

Blank- local Walgreens generally don't have access to the DVR to burn the photo to CD. If anyone locally has access they probably are a Regional manager. Stop being an a$$, PD did what they could to get the photo out to us.


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Posted by parent
a resident of College Terrace
on Dec 3, 2012 at 7:59 pm

The suspect photo looks like a clean cut student, not a "homeless bum" like some people are claiming. Is there some assumption that every time a crime is committed by a white person, the person must be homeless? I really do not believe that. Most drug abusers are white and not homeless.


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Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Dec 3, 2012 at 8:00 pm

Yeah, does look like a cellphone shot of a monitor screen. Well, more useful than no picture at all. I don't know, perhaps better to get away with it than to have more cops and be reporting a downtown shoot-out or hostage situation.

The regulars among the scruffy lot downtown commonly regarded as "homeless" are recognizable by anyone who frequents the area over a period of time, and they never appear to be in a hurry. It would be easier to get away with a crime by blending in with students, workers, bar-hoppers, or people who hang out at Lytton Plaza. Sort of agreeing with Father Mandell, but still nervous after-hours around the 7-11 or the train station. Even Ken's Columbia SC article said "homeless accounted for less than 2 percent of all the city's more serious violent and property crimes."


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Posted by More-Surveillance-Cameras-Needed
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 3, 2012 at 8:10 pm

> Before we start bandying statistics around, let us get
> the facts in this case.

There is this case, and then all the rest ..

Who came out with both guns blasting the following?

> There is no reason to believe that the homeless
> "bums" are more prone to crime than those who have a
> roof over their heads.

The stats actually suggest that the homeless (in general) are very likely candidates for this sort of crime. As to this particular crime--we'll just have to wait and see if the police are able to identify this young man from the surveillance photos.


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Posted by Michele Dauber
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 3, 2012 at 8:26 pm

I am a left wing bleeding heart Obamaite. I don't think this is any kind of basis to pick on the homeless. The man who did this is a sick addict and he needs treatment. Oxycontin has been shamelessly marketed and over-prescribed. Pharma has made billions off a product that is defective as marketed. Prescription of this drug should be strictly limited, and possibly the drug is just too defective and too dangerous to be made available. The manufacturers are well aware that it has led to skyrocketing addiction -- just as the makers of sudafed are well aware that they move so much product because of crystal meth not due to sniffles. According to an NPR report: "About 1 in 20 high school seniors now acknowledges taking OxyContin, a prescription drug for managing severe pain that, when abused, can be powerfully addictive. . . In its annual survey of teen drug use, the National Institute on Drug Abuse reports that OxyContin use by 12th graders is up 40 percent nationwide in just three years. Five times as many 12th graders report using OxyContin than report using methamphetamine. The results have been tragic."

There are other, effective pain medications and there are other ways to design this drug so that it cannot be abused in this way. The makers of Oxycontin are merchants of death and it is they, not their victims, who should be blamed for the rise in crime, addiction and other social problems caused by their defective product.

I am glad that no one was injured (other than the addict himself). But lets address the root cause of the problem, and treat the addict with compassion.


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Posted by More-Surveillance-Cameras-Needed
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 3, 2012 at 8:33 pm

> I am glad that no one was injured (other than the addict himself)

We have no idea if this person is addicted to this particular drug, or is going to sell what he was able to strong-arm off the pharmacist.

Best to wait and find out who he is, and why he did it.


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Posted by Michele Dauber
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 3, 2012 at 8:42 pm

Yes you are right about that -- but even if he is stealing it to sell it rather than to take it (or both) he is responding to a demand created by the drug manufacturers through addicting people to their dangerous defective product. Here is some more information for people interested in learning about Oxycontin and the social problems and deaths it causes:

Web Link

Web Link

A Republican lawmaker says: "It wasn't until 2007 when drug-maker Purdue Pharma was found criminally liable for misleading the public about OxyContin's risk of addiction and fined a record-shattering $635 million, that the company voluntarily removed these pills from the marketplace. Purdue replaced the original, crushable pills with a "tamper-resistant formulation," or TRF, and as a result, OxyContin misuse has declined. Tragically, this was nearly too late."


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Posted by More-Surveillance-Cameras-Needed
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 3, 2012 at 8:42 pm

By the way, this Walgreens was burned down a few years ago. From reading the Weekly articles in the archive, the first few that pop up from a search identify the person who burned the building, but not whether he was "homeless", or otherwise "not homeless".

Does anyone remember if that sort of information was released to the public over the months of the investigation and trial that ultimately sent this fellow to prison?


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Posted by More-Surveillance-Cameras-Needed
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 3, 2012 at 9:00 pm

Ok .. here's the details (up to a point) about the fellow who burned the building Walgreens is located in back in 2007--

Parolee charged in Palo Alto arson fire of Walgreens store:
Web Link


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Posted by Les
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 3, 2012 at 9:29 pm

Sorry Michele, but I wouldn't put the blame on the manufacturer. The addict became an addict because he or she abused the drug......the drug didn't choose to abuse the one who became the addict. Or maybe we should blame the doctor who prescribed it??


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Posted by Michele Dauber
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 3, 2012 at 11:20 pm

It's not an either/or. But in the case of oxycontin the record is clear that the drug is dangerous and is defective in that it poses an unreasonable risk of addiction that would not be consistent with the consumer's expections taking the drug. The risks of the drug as designed also outweigh its benefits for all but a very tiny defined class of patients for whom there are generally substitutes. Oxycontin is enormously profitable because of addiction. The manufacturer knew that, the doctors prescribing it knew that -- everyone knew that. The regulators who didn't do anything to get it off the market knew that. Saying that individuals who became addicted to this drug are to blame for not seeking help is not the same as saying that the manufacturer is absolved -- either in a legal or moral sense. We can hold more than one party accountable. The blame of the manufacturer and the doctor so far exceeds that of the addict that it is not even comparable in this particular case -- Purdue Pharma is like a tobacco company only they make a cigarette that explodes and blows off your face and kills your family too. This is poison pure and simple. If it has a valid, non-substitutable medical use, then it should be more strictly regulated and doctors who overprescribe should be arrested and prosecuted. That is how dangerous it is. So blaming the addict is just not cutting it. The poor addict is the person least culpable in this scenario.


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Posted by More-Surveillance-Cameras-Needed
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 4, 2012 at 8:06 am

> But in the case of oxycontin the record is clear that the drug
> is dangerous and is defective in that it poses an
> unreasonable risk of addiction that would not be
> consistent with the consumer's expections taking the drug

This statement seems like something a litigation lawyer might tell a jury, hoping to win a big settlement--rather than a statement that is intended to discuss a problem. Lawyers are not scientists—and can not be expected to see things in terms of a level playing field, or even in terms of "the truth". Lawyers seem to be people who frame arguments in order to "win"--but not resolve problems rationally.

This Wiki-page on Oxicodone provides a lot of information:

Web Link

But what is missing from this Wiki-page is any idea of how much (or how long) one has to take this drug before one is "addicted". Also missing is any information as to whether people who become "addicted" actually took Oxycontin (or another version of Oxycodone) for a previous medical condition, and then become "hooked" as a result, or if they came upon "Oxy" because it was somehow avaiable to them?


Also missing from this Wiki-page are estimates of how many doctors are knowingly writing prescriptions for "Oxy" so that they can enable their patients to become drug abusers.


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Posted by Les
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 4, 2012 at 8:42 am

Sorry again Michele, but I totally disagree with you. You can tell us all the facts you know, but it will still not change my feeling that the root of the problem is not the manufacturer but rather the individual who is ultimately in charge of his or her own life decisions.


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Posted by Michele Dauber
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 4, 2012 at 11:34 am

Michele Dauber is a registered user.

Although the last poster says that he will be unpersuaded by facts, hopefully others are interested in learning the facts. The fact is that the manufacturer of Oxycontin, Perdue Phara was prosecuted criminally for making this pill crushable, which is a serious defect in the design. Prosecutors and police all over the country have been driven crazy trying to control this substance which is hyper-addictive and made for abuse and generates criminal behavior. We should treat addicts with compassion and offer appropriate medical care. And we should treat corporate pirates who profiteer off of human misery as the criminals they are. Yes, the armed robber who steals to feed his addiction is a crime. But the maker of this poison is no less criminal by contrast.


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Posted by bru
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 4, 2012 at 2:02 pm

bru is a registered user.

I doubt there is a homeless person out there with a gun.
So I doubt this had anything to do with a homeless person.
Everytime there is a problem people blame the homeless and
some article from South Carolina ... if you know anything about
South Carolina is pointless.

We should stick with the point not always run everything over to
attack the homeless when there is no cause. If we had more
video surveillance we could have tracked this guy right to his
car.

I doubt even an addict would try to knock over a Walgreen's
in their own city.

Also don't much care for the implication that Palo Alto Police are
too polite to do their jobs. Why do we get such silly comments at
times like this.


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Posted by Nora Charles
a resident of Stanford
on Dec 4, 2012 at 7:06 pm

Nora Charles is a registered user.

I hope such incidents will not be used to try to ban drugs that people legitimately need to manage pain. If that's the case, why not get rid of cigarettes and alcohol which are harmful in far larger numbers, and while we're at it guns. The criminal here is the man who robbed Walgreen's, not the drug manufacturer. Really, let's be sensible and not devolve into even more of a nanny state.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by rick
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 6, 2012 at 12:14 am

rick is a registered user.

Upon learning the facts, I wanted to invest my life savings in Perdue Pharma. Imagine my disappointment to learn it's a privately held company.


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