East Palo Alto boxing gym founder takes down alleged thief


A burglar picked the wrong car to break into on Saturday morning -- the one belonging to East Palo Alto Boxing Club owner Johnnie Gray.

Gray was in his home resting in front of the television set at 3:30 a.m. when he heard a suspicious sound and went outside to investigate, he said.

All was silent.

"Then I hear something again. He got greedy and he came back. I looked outside and he's in my truck," Gray said.

The alleged thief took off running and Gray went back inside and put on his clothes.

"I said to myself, 'I'm gonna catch this cat,'" he said.

Gray's truck was littered with broken glass, so he took his other car and went looking for the thief. Rounding the corner onto the next street, he spotted the man.

Gray passed up the man and planned to pull into a driveway and to make it look like he was coming home, he said. Then he realized the man might use whatever he had to break the truck window as a weapon, so he returned home to retrieve a baseball bat, he said.

"I went back. Now I'm on the hunt. I go around the corner. There's nobody," he said, so he parked his car around the block and walked slowly back.

"I'm creeping like a cat. I got real low, and then I see him. This guy is still up to the same stuff. He's looking in all of these cars and he's going into someone's backyard. He's just out there like a raccoon -- some ol' raccoon," he said.

When the man reached the car where Gray was hiding, the boxer waited. Then the alleged thief reached the side of the car where Gray was crouched.

"I popped up and he took off like a jackrabbit," said Gray, who was able to bat the man once on the arm and then on the side as he ran away.

"Then I threw him to the ground. I gave him a light conk on the top of the head," he said.

The man quieted down, but then he started getting agitated again, Gray said. He tried to flag down a passing car. Residents, alerted to the commotion, called police.

"There were two white officers and the guy was white. I am black. This picture doesn't look good. Usually, it's the other way around," he said.

Gray dropped the bat when police commanded. But he noted they did not cuff the alleged burglar. Instead, the officer took out his notepad.

Police searched the man's belongings and found bags of change and a summons with the suspect's name on it, and that's when they realized that Gray had caught a man they had been seeking in several burglaries.

The man was taken to the hospital for examination. East Palo Alto police could not be immediately reached for comment.

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9 people like this
Posted by Mark
a resident of Palo Verde
on Apr 16, 2015 at 10:59 am

I really think that is a great end to a specific awful problem--thieves are awful in general: I want to thank Johnnie Gray for stepping up not only for himself but for the rest of us. Thank you Johnnie.

But be careful. Once you step up and hunt down thieves, you have a burden of the aggressor to overcome if that "light conk" on the head causes damages whether or not they are trumped up--you are at that point seen as the aggressor legally. Especially if you are carrying a baseball bat that you went back to your house for. It makes sense to me however, this is a legal system that not only is there to protect innocent people but thieves, murderers, and really bad human beings that do really bad things. Don't forget that...

8 people like this
Posted by Dennis
a resident of Downtown North
on Apr 16, 2015 at 11:01 am

Go Johnnie Go! Lucky the perp only got a light conk on the head. Lucky too that Johnnie didn't get tased or shot.

4 people like this
Posted by Kudos
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 16, 2015 at 11:03 am

Congratulations to this brave man. It is however a very sad statement that the police did not bother to cuff a person with a bat. I wonder if a person of color would have received the same wonderful treatment.

6 people like this
Posted by Dave
a resident of Crescent Park
on Apr 16, 2015 at 11:43 am

That made my day. Thank you. "He's just out there like a raccoon -- some ol' raccoon!"

4 people like this
Posted by AnnieJ
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Apr 16, 2015 at 11:57 am

Haha! Funny story. Good job Johnnie. "Some ol' raccoon"!

9 people like this
Posted by Debbie
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Apr 16, 2015 at 2:01 pm

Maybe the East Palo Alto Police Department should make a donation to the East Palo Alto Boxing Club.

1 person likes this
Posted by andrew rich
a resident of Woodland Ave. area (East Palo Alto)
on Apr 16, 2015 at 2:12 pm

andrew rich is a registered user.

Lesson: Don't F with a boxing-gym owner.

2 people like this
Posted by tatat
a resident of College Terrace
on Apr 16, 2015 at 4:43 pm

that is 'rat -a-tat'' news reporting. it shows the public as if in a movie.''gonna get that guy''. rather than addressing why so many social problems in America. making the public look like it should be at war with everyone. that's ignorant for such a supposed high education area. ''county fair'' news reporting like we are some rodeo animals.

1 person likes this
Posted by Shannon
a resident of Downtown North
on Apr 16, 2015 at 4:53 pm

Don't think he will come into your neighborhood too soon.

3 people like this
Posted by Neighbor
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Apr 16, 2015 at 7:32 pm

Thanks John, that guy was wreaking havoc. Looks like he chose the wrong car to break into. I will be down at your boxing facility, to donate some money within the week.Thanks again!

1 person likes this
Posted by andreas
a resident of Ventura
on Apr 17, 2015 at 6:34 am

Well-written story.

Like this comment
Posted by cassie
a resident of Downtown North
on Apr 17, 2015 at 7:56 am

Won't be showing up in your neighborhood too soon.

1 person likes this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Apr 17, 2015 at 4:46 pm

Curmudgeon is a registered user.

Maybe now the alleged perp will listen to the NRA and use his rights under the Second Amendment.

4 people like this
Posted by True
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Apr 17, 2015 at 7:09 pm

True is a registered user.

Very brave of Gray, but risky.

As someone who thinks some of the guys who've gotten shot by police deserve it because they were not listening to police commands, I am saddened that they did not cuff the white burglar. Whether white or black, he's a criminal and should have been cuffed.

Like this comment
Posted by Tired of the BS
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Apr 19, 2015 at 9:25 am

Tired of the BS is a registered user.


Gray was the one with the bat, not the suspect. The article says the police were alerted by people who heard the commotion. We don't know what the police were sent to. Sounds like the police arrived, found two people struggling, Gray followed instructions, the police asked some questions to figure out what was going on and the bad guy went to jail. Not everything is about race.

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

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