This year's headshakers in Palo Alto

A look back at the year's oddest crime stories and showdowns

From failed burglary schemes to frightening robot encounters, numerous odd crimes and showdowns in Palo Alto made the headlines in 2016.

With the year coming to an end, here's a look back at some of them.


Bot vs tot: Security robot collides with boy at Stanford Shopping Center

A 5-foot-tall, 300-pound crime-fighting robot collided with a 17-month-old boy while patrolling Stanford Shopping Center on July 7. The boy's parents said their son was knocked to the ground and onto his face. What's more, after the boy fell, the robot did not stop but instead continued to move forward, running over the tot's right foot. The following month, Mountain View security-bot company, Knightscope, unveiled a new, safer model of the K5 security bot.

Non-operable getaway car: Burglars stranded after crashing into Apple store

A group of alleged burglars at the Apple Store in downtown Palo Alto on Dec. 4 didn't quite make off with the goods like they'd anticipated. The 2016 Kia Soul they used to smash through the 40-foot-tall storefront window to gain access sustained so much damaged, they couldn't make a getaway, police said. Police found four of the stranded would-be burglars hunkered down nearby and placed them under arrest. The remaining six or so burglars remained at large.

Poison and probation: Stanford student who dosed lab mates pleads 'insanity'

A Stanford University medical student charged on four felony counts of poisoning her lab mates' water with embalming chemicals over the course of four months was allowed to perform community service instead of serving jail time, Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Vincent Chiariello ruled on Jan. 15. Witnesses had said the student seemed to be under duress, and she pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity.

Slit and slide: Feds probe for 'birthday card money' thief with unusual technique

Following multiple complaints, the U.S. Postal Service's Office of the Inspector General launched an investigation in July to determine whether an insider or a random thief was stealing money from mailed birthday cards in Palo Alto. In each reported case, residents said there was a slit in the envelope big enough for the thief's fingers to slip into and pull cash out of, while leaving the envelope intact.

Failed escape artist: Missing inmate falls from attic hiding place in front of deputies

The Palo Alto inmate who tied bedsheets together to make a Hollywood-style escape from a second-story window of the Santa Clara County Main Jail the day before Thanksgiving was arrested at his sister's Antioch home a week later after he fell from his hiding place in the attic, going through the ceiling and onto the floor while deputies were conducting a search. The Santa Clara County Sheriff's Office said LaRon Campbell, 26, was recaptured around 10 p.m., Nov. 29.

Repeat crime scene: Copper thieves return to vacant building one too many times

Two copper wire thieves (an uncle and his nephew) who returned to the scene of the crime on Hanover Street in Palo Alto for a third time in October were caught after a waiting security guard spotted them on a surveillance camera entering the vacant commercial building. When police arrived, they found the uncle hiding in a room and his nephew on the roof. Both men were taken into custody with the help of the police K9 who had to subdue the uncle.

Related content:

Takeaways of 2016

Uplifting stories that topped 2016

Housing shortage takes center stage at City Hall

School district's unexpected challenges


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15 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Dec 28, 2016 at 3:14 pm

So glad to read in the city's recent Enewsletter that we're going to have robot greeters at the city's libraries at a time when we have a budget deficit. But hey, we're getting tv coverage for our $4,500,000 city hall lobby wayfinder.

PA residents must sure have trouble navigating.

Let's hear it for Palo Alto's priorities.

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

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