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Armed man sought following robbery in downtown Palo Alto

Original post made on Oct 22, 2011

A woman walking home from downtown Palo Alto was robbed of her purse at gunpoint Thursday night, police said.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Saturday, October 22, 2011, 10:34 AM

Comments (35)

Posted by Mason
a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 22, 2011 at 10:42 am

The Mercury News article states that the gunman was described as "Hispanic". Just curious why PA Online chose not to include that detail in this story. Seems like a rather important piece of information to omit, and for people to be aware of.

Posted by timmy
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Oct 22, 2011 at 11:01 am

Looks like Tim Lincecum.

Posted by Jocelyn Dong
editor of the Palo Alto Weekly
on Oct 22, 2011 at 11:11 am

Jocelyn Dong is a registered user.

Hi Mason. There is some debate about witness identifications of suspects by race (and the accuracy thereof), but your question is a fair one. This year at Stanford University, at least two victims of crime initially misidentified the race of the perpetrator -- one saying her attacker was probably black and then later identifying him as Asian Indian, and the second identifying the attacker as Hispanic and then re-identifying him as biracial (black and Hispanic).

In this case, a sketch has been released along with numerous details about the robber's height, build, age, clothing -- and complexion -- which hopefully will provide sufficient details as to his identity. However, given the point you raised, we can add that the witness identified the robber as Hispanic. Thanks.

Posted by Nayeli
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 22, 2011 at 11:20 am

@ timmy: LOL! Yeah, I see the resemblance. However, I was thinking more along the lines of Mark Zuckerberg and one his trademark hoodies.

Web Link

BTW, it is interesting that so many descriptions of people who steal or rape are wearing dark hoodies. I guess that they want to hide their faces? I feel like telling my husband to throw out all of the ones that he owns.

@ Mason: There is a wide range of skin types in the Hispanic ethnicity (just like most others). Some of us are so light skinned and have hazel or colored eyes that you can hardly tell that we are "Hispanic" versus traditional "white" people. And, of course, it is much more difficult to detect race or ethnicity at night.

Either way, I hope that they capture this thug. Only an animal picks on the weak like this. I hope that his arrest is very public and realizes the embarrassment and humility that he caused his family.

Posted by Mason
a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 22, 2011 at 12:56 pm

Thank you for the kind reply Jocelyn, and I understand that PA Online is trying to be responsible with the information they choose to publish. In the case of a dangerous, armed criminal however, I believe it's in everyone's best interest to get out as much credible information about the perpetrator as possible. I realize that one's ethnic background cannot always be defined by appearance alone. In most cases, I also believe that people can essentially categorize others fairly accurately. Enough so to include that vital information when we're talking about identifying and capturing a dangerous criminal.

The article doesn't cover it, but the victims may not have been relying on appearance alone in identifying the robber as being possibly Hispanic. Assuming he spoke during the robbery, he may have had a Latino sounding accent as well. Regardless, thank you again for your response and consideration.

Posted by Gert
a resident of another community
on Oct 22, 2011 at 12:58 pm

The sketch looks more like a white lady in her mid 40s. Some businesses have invested heavily into their decor, primarily it is art and computers that I would worry about. Maybe full time 24 hr security is needed?

Posted by Jocelyn Dong
editor of the Palo Alto Weekly
on Oct 22, 2011 at 2:07 pm

Jocelyn Dong is a registered user.

Appreciate your response, Mason, and your excellent point about other possible identifying factors, such as accent/speech. We do not yet have information about how the robber was identified as Hispanic but will do our best to find out.

Of additional note, I have since come across a posting by a person who is known to listen to the Palo Alto police scanner. According to the posting, police were initially looking for an Asian man. This may be a situation in which subsequent information given to the police has led them to conclude the robber was Hispanic.

Posted by Hmmm
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Oct 22, 2011 at 3:17 pm

How terrifying for the victim. I am so glad she wasn't injured. I also detest that these types of robberies are starting up again. I hope that these criminals are apprehended quickly & nonviolently.

Posted by animal
a resident of St. Claire Gardens
on Oct 22, 2011 at 4:02 pm

well, police pick on who they percieve as ''weak'', just like ''animals''. european spanish people are caucasian, originating in the middle east. ''raoul'' is a persian name.. ''raul'' is the spanish version..

Posted by Anne
a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 22, 2011 at 6:17 pm

The 300 block of Ramona is in Downtown North and is mostly residential. When these robberies were happening a year or so ago, it seemed like it was open season on this neighborhood without much help from the city. Is there a Neighborhood Watch for this area? Tougher parking- residential only- would get rid of the main draw, people who park here to go to the bars, then walk back late at night on badly lit streets. They should be safe to do so, but why not remove the temptation altogether?

Posted by Anon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 22, 2011 at 11:35 pm

I am getting really sick of reading of these robberies all over Palo Alto near downtown in areas that really ought to be safe. I go for walks at night, sometimes very late, and I see people walking around and driving an rarely see police cruising around. In the downtown north area I think I recall there not being a lot of light or trees blocking a lot of streetlamps light ... can we at least get better lighting and police patrols more often?

How long before one of these thugs shoots someone? Can we do better than this to ensure the safety of people in Palo Alto? This is really scary.

Posted by Jocelyn Dong
editor of the Palo Alto Weekly
on Oct 23, 2011 at 1:05 am

Jocelyn Dong is a registered user.

FYI, the article has been updated with a statement from the police department that the race of the robber has not yet been determined.

Posted by Noe
a resident of College Terrace
on Oct 23, 2011 at 9:54 am

Difficult for the police to be everywhere at once Anon in Crescent Park, especially when the department is operating with less officers than it did 15-20 years ago. From what I learned Palo Alto used to have over 100 officers. Now they're down below 90. All due to cutbacks in an attempt to balance the city budget. At nighttime for example, Palo Alto usually operates with only 6 officers and have been for many years. Trying to cover the whole city with less officers and resources has to be a difficult task.

Posted by Joseph
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 23, 2011 at 3:19 pm

Gunpoint is a very dangerous place. Every week I hear about a robbery there, and I think that people should just avoid it.
If you have to go to gunpoint, please go with a friend.

Posted by Robert
a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 23, 2011 at 6:24 pm

Tell me. Is this a woman or a man? The sketch appears to be that of a 40 something lady.

Posted by disguise
a resident of St. Claire Gardens
on Oct 23, 2011 at 6:28 pm

oh,a woman in a man's suit.

Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 23, 2011 at 6:36 pm

The fact that someone thought the suspect looked like Tim Lincecum is very telling. I really don't know how we are supposed to look at a sketch and identify this to someone we know. We may all know someone who looks a bit like the sketch but feel that they are probably innocent so don't do anything about it. The friends/family of the suspect will probably do the same.

Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Oct 24, 2011 at 10:05 am

10% of the world may look like that sketch, but the sketch helps to rule out the other 90%. To me that's a step in the right direction.

Posted by Alfred
a resident of Professorville
on Oct 24, 2011 at 10:46 am

It is apparent that we are dealing with an effeminate man who happens to be a coward.

Posted by Scholar
a resident of Menlo Park
on Oct 24, 2011 at 12:01 pm

Maybe don't carry your ID or Credit Card and just a little money in a purse or wallet while walking around after dark now. Keep the rest in your sock, waistband, a travel wallet belt, etc.

Posted by Nayeli
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 24, 2011 at 12:21 pm

There are some notes written to the left of the sketch. It includes "md-dark skin." So, I suppose that this is why the victim mentioned that the suspect was "possibly Hispanic." The sketch can't reflect a skin tone very well.

Posted by Maria
a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 24, 2011 at 12:39 pm

Whatever happened to the police patrolling downtown on bike?!
I haven't seen one police man outside of his car (except at Rudy's at midnight).

The welcomed news that police were going to be on bike's was a welcomed revelations, if in fact it was meant to be true.

Posted by Chris Gaither
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 24, 2011 at 12:45 pm

Thanks Mason for broaching the subject of the ethnic/racial composition of the suspect. Thanks also to Jocelyn for clarifying why the Palo Alto Weekly did not mention the suspect's ethnic/racial description.

I often wonder why in the case of suspects who are "deemed" white from their respective photographs, race is usually omitted from the corresponding wrtten article. However, it seems oftentimes when the suspect is black, or hispanic from their respective picture, the ethnic/racial composition is highlighted as a major characteristic in the description. Always, always, makes me wonder hmmm! Of course, the more detailed the description of the suspect, the higher the chance of catching the person.

Thanks for broaching an important discussion, that is oftentimes swept under the rug, and mummed so to speak.

Posted by BaaBaaRaa
a resident of Menlo Park
on Oct 24, 2011 at 12:48 pm

I hate purse snatchers.... I count them among the lowest of the low lifes. I love to walk home at dusk and early night and wish they would catch these wimps who go around stealing purses from women.

Posted by Common Sense
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Oct 24, 2011 at 2:12 pm

Some of you want increased police patrols and officers on bike? Unfortunatley that has become laughable based on how many cops they have on the streets now. Im sure Keeane will find ways to cut more funding (which equals staffing sometimes) and as soon as the citizens vote away binding arbitraiton, the cops will have no recourse to demand things like minimum staffing on the street.

Posted by Mason
a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 24, 2011 at 3:58 pm

You are absolutely correct Common Sense. From what I have learned, the Palo Alto P.D. has less officers now than they did 15-20 years ago. The overnight shift is staffed with as few as 6 officers. The police department has had to give up positions over the years as well as special assignments like the bicycle patrol, etc. Doing more with less it appears.

Posted by Anne
a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 25, 2011 at 2:09 pm

Clearly Palo Alto is seen as 'easy pickings' by gun carrying thugs, particularly Downtown and Downtown North. I haven't seen any measures from the city to protect its citizens. Perhaps they've decided that it is just the cost of doing business. Suggestion: pay City admin a lot less, and shift the difference over to the police so that they can be adequately staffed. This town's priorities are thoroughly screwed up- at least at the government level.

Posted by Mason
a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 25, 2011 at 3:54 pm

Being an affluent community, I have no doubt that these thugs count on a higher probability of a heavy take if they rob people in Palo Alto. I agree with you Anne. All the city services and resources in the world don't mean a thing if people don't feel safe in their own community. The police department should not be operating with less officers than they did twenty years ago.

Posted by 2 many
a resident of Southgate
on Oct 25, 2011 at 4:36 pm

there are black men who see cops eveywhere they go!! not enough cops, you must6 be joking. come follow a black man around, you will be protected because cops aklways follow black men!! hire a black man for protection. you will be followed by police escort EVEYWHERE!!

Posted by Mason
a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 25, 2011 at 8:43 pm

For 2 many, I take it you wish to raise your concern over alleged racial profiling. A topic certainly worth discussing, but as it relates to this article, the point has everything to do with battling violent crime and its horrific impact. In my opinion the cycle of crime has to be dealt with on many different levels. Law enforcement cannot be the only aspect if we seek long term solutions, but make no mistake, it is a vital part of the solution.

If I may, your take has a bent of paranoia 2 many. Whenever someone speaks in absolutes, for example, when you state "cops always" or you'll be followed "everywhere", I have to question your perception and objectivity. Problems and issues rarely stem from a single source. Life is more complicated than that. I have no doubt that for whatever reason there are police officers who have issues and should no longer be in the profession. They are human and some will fall to human weakness. I also believe that the majority of officers are indeed honorable and deserve our respect and trust. Just some thoughts on the discussion.

Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 26, 2011 at 12:55 pm

I wish the police would make stopping crime their top priority rather than minor traffic violations.

Posted by Mason
a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 26, 2011 at 2:43 pm

From what I gathered from a few city council meetings, there was some discussion about abolishing the police traffic unit in response to the last wave of budget cuts being demanded of the police department. Although seemingly a lower priority level of enforcement, the council chose to keep the unit in large part due to the contributions they make in keeping school zones safer. Much of their time seems to be focused on the school zone commute. The department as a whole is still operating with 15-20% less officers than they did even ten years ago.

Posted by Charles
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Oct 26, 2011 at 11:51 pm

6 cops to cover all of Palo Alto at night? Just publishing that information will stimulate even more crime in the evening. How on earth can just six officers cover all of Palo Alto in any comprehensive way? We need at LEAST twice that number on patrol, and should have a very mobile motorcycle and/or bike patrol officer throughout evening hours, downtown.

This is on Keene; there is a consequence to under-patrolling. We're now living with that consequence.

Posted by Mason
a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 27, 2011 at 9:05 am

Apparently the minimum staffing on the overnight shift is one supervisor and five officers. If I remember correctly between the hours of midnight and 7:00 am. They operate close to that number the majority of the time. Also it has been that way for many years, long before the current city manager came on board. Unfortunately the cuts involved some specialized assignments like a regular bicycle patrol, detective positions, etc. No one should expect a police department in our region to be operating with 15-20% less personnel than they did in the past. Makes no sense, and eventually public safety will be compromised.

Posted by Anne
a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 27, 2011 at 2:33 pm

Mason and Charles, you are both correct in your statements. What is unacceptable is they way the City of Palo Alto clearly puts the safety of its citizens below becoming green and bicycle friendly. Better street lighting would be a quick and appropriate action with a positive impact- not happening, even though requested. What will it take to get their attention?

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