News

Man's mishap leads him to help robbery victim

A change of an employee's regular routine brought two lives together

A Town & Country Village employee searching for his glasses happened to be at the right place at the right time in Palo Alto on the night of Nov. 23, when he helped a 22-year-old man found badly beaten on a deserted bike path after a robbery.

"John," 67, had already experienced a series of events that day that took him away from his usual routine. (The Weekly is using a pseudonym as the employee requested anonymity out of concern for his safety.)

John almost never worked late, but it was Black Friday. His manager, who was off-site, had asked him to open and close the shop since he was the only employee with a key. After finishing his normal shift, he went home to check on his dog before returning to the store at 7:45 p.m. He took the trash down an alley to the compactor, then returned to finish vacuuming the store. But he realized he couldn't find his glasses.

"I thought I'd had them on top of my head and they fell off when I went to the trash receptacle. It was pretty dark," he said.

Retracing his steps, he didn't see anything along the pathway. But as he approached the garbage area, he heard yelling.

"I thought it was kids screwing around. Then I heard a scream and people ran off," he recalled.

He walked toward the sound to a parking lot gate that leads to the bike path behind the Palo Alto Medical Foundation, next to the Caltrain tracks. About 20 feet away under a dim light, he saw a young man standing with his head bowed. He asked the man if he was OK. He answered "no," raising his head.

"His whole face was red, covered in blood. It's one of those things that you never forget," John said.

The young man said three men had surrounded him and stolen his Air Pods and cellphone, according to John. One of the men had beaten him before they ran away.

The employee guided the 22-year-old man back to the shopping center and to a nearby bench.

"I just wanted to get him into a safe place," John said.

By this time the young man was shaking and crying. Without his glasses, the employee stared at his blurry cellphone screen. It took a few tries to correctly dial 911 emergency dispatchers, he said. Palo Alto police arrived swiftly, swarming the area in search of the robbers, but they were gone.

The employee still wanted to help the victim, even after an ambulance took him to the hospital. He drove to the Stanford Hospital emergency room, where police had also arrived. He comforted the young man until his parents arrived, he said.

On Tuesday afternoon, sitting on the bench where he had taken the victim, the employee reflected on what made him not only step in but continue helping the 22-year-old. He isn't someone who makes a habit of rescuing others, but he doesn't like injustice, he said.

"When I see something like that, I get really angry. All fear goes out the window. I don't like a bully. I don't like people who take advantage of people who are weaker. When I see it, sometimes I get mad," he said, and that leads to action.

He wasn't afraid of walking into a dangerous situation because he'd heard the assailants running away. "They were thieves, and they got what they wanted," he said.

On Tuesday, the young man and his mother arrived at the store to personally thank John and give a "very nice card," he said. The victim's injuries were still apparent: the gash on his head was stitched closed and his eye was still swollen.

And did the good Samaritan ever find his glasses?

John smiled. After he left the hospital, he returned home to his dog. Right next to the door, perched on a stand, were both pairs of his spectacles, he said. And it was fortuitous that he had left them behind.

"Had I had my glasses, I never would have walked back there," he said.

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Comments

59 people like this
Posted by Lisa Krieger
a resident of Crescent Park
on Nov 29, 2018 at 10:23 am

A beautiful story, and *so* well written. Thank you!


8 people like this
Posted by George K.
a resident of Portola Valley
on Nov 29, 2018 at 10:52 am

Glad he could help, but misplacing your glasses is not a "mishap." If you misplaced your glasses and then walked into a tree, that would be a mishap. This was the opposite: it was a happy accident.


5 people like this
Posted by What?
a resident of Duveneck School
on Nov 29, 2018 at 11:58 am

Wonderful story. However, how did he drive to the hospital if he could barely see his phone to call 911? Best wishes to the victim.


14 people like this
Posted by Novelera
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 29, 2018 at 11:58 am

Novelera is a registered user.

Let's hear it for old guys! "John" is a true hero and went above and beyond the call of duty.

Many years ago I was in a grocery parking lot. A scary argument was taking place over a parking place. I saw a man hit a woman with a doubled up fist and apparently with all his strength. I responded in the same way, running toward the woman and thus chasing the guy away. Humans have an instinct to protect other humans.

Not to take away from John. What a guy!


26 people like this
Posted by Annette
a resident of College Terrace
on Nov 29, 2018 at 12:19 pm

Annette is a registered user.

If I were John's manager I would be crowing! John is so clearly exceptional. Great story - thank you, John, for demonstrating true holiday compassion. You rock!


21 people like this
Posted by cmarg
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Nov 29, 2018 at 12:31 pm

cmarg is a registered user.

Thank you for posting this story. It is great to read stories of people helping others.


33 people like this
Posted by TLM
a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 29, 2018 at 12:53 pm

@What? You are apparently too young to understand the concept of reading glasses that we over-45 people need to see things that are close up, like a phone, but don't need to see distance, or to drive. Since we don't wear them for normal activities, we are always losing our reading glasses.

It's always nice to read about a Good Samaritan.


11 people like this
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Nov 29, 2018 at 1:05 pm

^ or the concept of looking out the window to drive instead of down at your Waze app.


9 people like this
Posted by TonyB.
a resident of Menlo Park
on Nov 29, 2018 at 1:15 pm

A very nice story to read. It was very refreshing to see a person actually showing genuine compassion and concern. I haven't seen this type of caring action here in California for the many years I've lived here. As an ex-patriate Briton, growing-up in the Hartford, CT. area, I find Californians - not all, mind you,- but the vast majority to be very selfish and entitled with a 'me-first' attitude. It does restore my faith there are still some selfless, decent humans in the area that care about others first.


6 people like this
Posted by What?
a resident of Duveneck School
on Nov 29, 2018 at 1:47 pm

@TLM: Thank you for the explanation.

@TonyaB: You are very wrong; perhaps you live too close to Atherton. I’ve lived in many states and Californians are the friendliest, although SoCal is where the self-absorbed are. The Midwest isn’t so helpful because they are too reserved; they’re biting their tongues to stay polite and they worry about themselves. If you’re unhappy here, why pay the high rent?


60 people like this
Posted by It's always been true
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Nov 29, 2018 at 1:56 pm

If you continually run into rude jerks, time to look in the mirror


11 people like this
Posted by Depends On Your Priorities
a resident of Stanford
on Nov 29, 2018 at 2:04 pm

> I haven't seen this type of caring action here in California for the many years I've lived here. As an ex-patriate Briton, growing-up in the Hartford, CT. area, I find Californians - not all, mind you,- but the vast majority to be very selfish and entitled with a 'me-first' attitude.

A lot depends on the wealth factor...the richer one is, the more self-absorbed & materialistic they tend to be. Comes with the territory...especially around here & in SoCal.

The Good Samaritan here was a working class individual. Had he been an atypical yuppie, chances are we wouldn't be reading this story of a good deed.

Meanwhile the thugs got away. That's the sad part of this tale.


37 people like this
Posted by pedestrian
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 29, 2018 at 3:55 pm

That path, and many other paths around town, badly needs better lighting as well as police patrols on foot or on bicycle. 7:45pm is not very late in the evening and we need to make these pedestrian routes as safe as possible for people walking home from work or home from dinner downtown.


18 people like this
Posted by Annette
a resident of College Terrace
on Nov 29, 2018 at 4:30 pm

Annette is a registered user.

Pedestrian makes an excellent point. More than once I have entered that path on my bike, thought better of it, and turned back. In a town that is growing increasingly hostile towards car usage it only makes sense to make multi-modal non-car pathways well lighted and as safe as possible.


27 people like this
Posted by A Call to Vigilence
a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 29, 2018 at 5:15 pm

Is it time to bring in the Guardian Angels and have them patrol the city streets?

Palo Alto is no longer a safe community and the PAPD may need additional assistance in maintaining proactive measures against criminal activity.




9 people like this
Posted by jet pilot
a resident of Stanford
on Nov 29, 2018 at 7:40 pm

What a good person. So nice to hear of exceptional kindness like this.


5 people like this
Posted by Maggie
a resident of Downtown North
on Nov 30, 2018 at 3:25 am

John- bravo. You are a very brave man and wonderful citizen.

Why are there no cameras along the bike path? The city, CalTrain, and Town and Country should want those. Office patrols would be great as well.


1 person likes this
Posted by Tahoe Timmy
a resident of another community
on Dec 3, 2018 at 9:57 am

Great article and what a tremendous act of helpful citizenship by John! BRAVO!

One minor thing: George, a mishap is also defined as some bit of misfortune, such as John presuming that he lost glasses and going looking for them.


4 people like this
Posted by YSK
a resident of Community Center
on Dec 3, 2018 at 11:03 am

I have been living in Palo Alto 44 years. I came here from New York. I agree with Tony B. In the last 10 years this city has changed almost beyond recognition. There was a time when this story would be the norm, not the exception. I congratulate and admire this person for not thinking only of himself and for actively helping another. So few stories like that anymore.


Like this comment
Posted by mark94301
a resident of Community Center
on Dec 3, 2018 at 11:36 pm

mark94301 is a registered user.

First of all, my hat goes off to "John" for his compassion and also to Sue Dremman for her excellent writing.

The comment was made: "A lot depends on the wealth factor...the richer one is, the more self-absorbed & materialistic they tend to be. Comes with the territory...especially around here & in SoCal."

While I understand this point and recognize that much of California has huge problems with the growing disparity between wealthy and poor people, many wealthy people also share their wealth through charitable giving. I also take my hat off to these generous people, from whom I can learn more.

As the holiday season approaches, it's a perfect opportunity for us to take off our hates and emulate John, Sue (for sharing her good news) and the charitable people around us.


8 people like this
Posted by Behind/Between the Lines
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 4, 2018 at 7:35 am

> ...many wealthy people also share their wealth through charitable giving.

(1) To get tax write-off.
(2) To get recognized.
(3) A very small % of their actual wealth

It's easy to appear magnanimous when one has a huge bankroll.


5 people like this
Posted by Keeping An Eye Out For Crime in PA
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 4, 2018 at 12:55 pm

> Is it time to bring in the Guardian Angels and have them patrol the city streets?

> Palo Alto is no longer a safe community and the PAPD may need additional assistance in maintaining proactive measures against criminal activity.

Yes. Either that or have groups of Boy Scouts patrol the city streets and subways with smartphones to alert the PAPD of suspicious/criminal activity.

Charles Bronson is currently unavailable.


8 people like this
Posted by Mary
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 4, 2018 at 3:40 pm

I'm very concerned about this assault and the other assaults that have been happening in the area. I would appreciate it if the Weekly could look into this problem and let us know more about violence in our town. My adult son feels very safe walking at night in Palo Alto, and I also feel safe walking at night in some areas. I hate to think that nobody is safe anymore walking at night in Palo Alto. Please inform us on this important topic. Thank you for this well written reporting. Huge thanks to the hero who helped this young man.


1 person likes this
Posted by Paly Alum
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 5, 2018 at 2:00 am

Mary, Palo Alto is no longer safe. Thugs are visiting like kids in a candy store (well, not Palo Alto kids, they aren’t allowed candy). If we could be a gated community, bike riding and walking would be safe once again like when I grew up here in the 70s, no more commuter traffic, no crime. Sigh.


2 people like this
Posted by The Out of Towners
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 5, 2018 at 12:27 pm

> ...Palo Alto is no longer safe. Thugs are visiting like kids in a candy store...

^^^ These 'thugs' are not locals. They come from out to town to prey on the perceived affluence of Palo Alto.



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