Palo Alto police have announced a $10,000 reward funded by a local nonprofit organization for information leading to the arrest and conviction of three men who violently robbed the Safeway store pharmacy in the Midtown neighborhood of Palo Alto early Friday morning.
Police have also released surveillance images of the men, who are believed to be Hispanic adults in their 20s with medium builds and ranging from 5'7 to 5'9 inches tall.
The man who brandished a gun during the robbery, which occurred around 12:38 a.m., wore a gray hooded sweatshirt, blue jeans and red tennis shoes, according to a surveillance video.
A second man, who broke the glass door of the pharmacy, entered, and stole an unknown amount of prescription drugs. He wore a yellow hooded sweatshirt with a Tommy Hilfiger logo on it, dark pants and black shoes.
The third man, who police said was the lookout, was clean shaven and wore a red hooded jacket, gray pants and white sneakers.
In a press release Saturday, police also stated that two of the men came into the store and shoplifted food items on Thursday, Jan. 9, at 9:44 p.m., several hours prior to the armed robbery, according to surveillance video.
During the robbery, a male employee was ordered to lie on the ground near the pharmacy. No customers were in the store at the time, and none of the four employees was injured in the commission of the crime.
The vehicle in which the men fled from the store at 2811 Middlefield Road, just south of Colorado Avenue, was a full-size red two-door pickup truck, possibly an early 2000 model Ford or Chevrolet, according to police. It was last seen headed east on Oregon Expressway.
Locals step forward to fund reward
Due to the seriousness of the crime and the fact that a gun was used, the nonprofit Mothers Against Murder in Los Altos is offering the $10,000 reward for information leading to the robbers' arrest and conviction.
Palo Alto resident Roger Smith, who with his wife, Judy Kay, co-founded Mothers Against Murder in 2003, made the call to Police Chief Robert Jonsen, said the nonprofit's executive director, Margaret Petros.
"It really bothers them as community leaders that such brazen things have been happening. They're very upset," Petros said. "This is a place where families go to shop."
Smith said that he felt time was of the essence to put up the reward.
"I was thinking, 'My God. Fortunately, no one was hurt or killed, but it could have happened,'" Smith told the Weekly. "If we could get something out quickly, maybe something would happen" to help apprehend the robbers.
At the very least, he said he wants the three men to reconsider what they're doing and to know that people in the community are willing to offer money to stop their criminal behavior.
Smith said that danger has risen these days because of the prevalence of people illegally carrying guns.
"I have an enormous worry about guns," he said.
Even ordinary conflicts escalate: It used to be that people would get into fistfights or into arguments over car accidents, but "now a car wreck could get you shot," Smith said.
The group has put up money for information in three prior murder cases, including the Halloween 2018 double-homicide in East Palo Alto, but this is the first for an armed robbery.
"Our intention is to put more eyes and ears out there to send a clear message that this will not be tolerated," Petros said.
"We're hoping for a very quick resolution to this case. It's also a way to support the police," she said.
Anyone with information about Friday's armed robbery is asked to call the department's 24-hour dispatch center at 650-329-2413. Anonymous tips can be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org or sent by text message or voicemail to 650-383-8984. Tips can also be submitted anonymously through the police's free mobile app, downloadable at bit.ly/PAPD-AppStore or bit.ly/PAPD-GooglePlay.