Police: Robber stops at Starbucks, reads newspaper, gets nabbed

Transient tries to escape detection by changing clothes, shaving mustache, police say

Mountain View police arrested a man Friday just a few blocks from the bank they allege he robbed about a half hour earlier.

Lawrence Petitta, 53, was taken into custody Friday (June 17) inside the Starbucks located at 750 Castro St. -- where a plainclothes detective found him reading a newspaper less than 30 minutes after employees of the California Bank & Trust, located around the corner at 700 W. El Camino Real, reported they had been robbed by an individual matching his description, Mountain View police spokeswoman Liz Wylie said.

Employees from the bank called 9-1-1 at 9:09 a.m., Wylie said, telling dispatchers that a man had approached a teller claiming he had a gun and demanding money. The teller obliged and the man fled.

At 9:35 a.m., the plainclothes detective saw a man matching the description provided by the bank. The man had changed some of his clothes, but some of his clothing was the same as that described by the bank employees.

The plainclothes officer called for backup and kept an eye on the man until more officers arrived at the coffee shop.

While the officer waited, the man went into the Starbucks bathroom. At that point, the officer instructed the store's employees and customers to evacuate.

When the man emerged from the bathroom into an empty store, he had changed all of his clothes and had shaved off his mustache.

The officer took the man into custody, and he was positively identified by bank employees, Wylie said. Police found $1,100 on the suspect and discovered his previous outfit in the Starbucks bathroom trash can. They did not find a gun.

Police will continue looking for a weapon, but Petitta may not have had one, Wylie added. He was arrested on suspicion of robbery.

Wylie identified Petitta as a 53-year-old transient.

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Like this comment
Posted by George K.
a resident of College Terrace
on Jun 17, 2011 at 2:35 pm

There is much irony that, although the suspect went into the bathroom, it was the employees and customers who were asked to evacuate.

Like this comment
Posted by Palo Parent
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Jun 17, 2011 at 2:53 pm

Natural selection rears its ugly head.

Like this comment
Posted by mug shot?
a resident of another community
on Jun 17, 2011 at 3:00 pm

Other local papers are posting the police mug shot of the suspect. Any reason why Palo Alto Online does not?

Like this comment
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jun 17, 2011 at 4:28 pm

Mugshots just attract trolls to the comment boards here. Anyone really interested can find information elsewhere, as you say. The perp is off the street for awhile, so no pressing need to display a "watch out for this guy" photo. If the bank's security cameras are as good as my bank's, there will be no difficulty convicting. The difficulty comes in paying to keep him jail longer than six months.

Whoops. Looks like the mugshot just now appeared. Let the games begin.

Like this comment
Posted by Hmmm
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Jun 18, 2011 at 12:58 am

This is awesome. In the photo, dude sure looks like he could use a double espresso. If he'd been a real pro, he'd have shaved & changed first, then gone to Peet's for a *real* cuppa.

Like this comment
Posted by mug shot?
a resident of another community
on Jun 18, 2011 at 10:12 am

I'm glad the mug shot was finally posted here. The guy looks like several people that live on my street. Racial profiling and stereotyping of people that don't look like you rarely works in the real world.

Like this comment
Posted by ah men
a resident of South of Midtown
on Jun 18, 2011 at 3:23 pm

amen 2 that!

Like this comment
Posted by scot
a resident of Los Altos Hills
on Jun 20, 2011 at 4:15 pm

Nice job by the plainclothes detective! Congratulations: kept cool, unobserved, got help, protected civilians, nabbed the bozo with an element of theater - "Surprise, next time flush the toilet (self)!"

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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