Caught on camera: Family-owned pharmacy already hurting during COVID-19 hit by looters in SJ

Amanda del Castillo Image
Wednesday, June 3, 2020
Caught on camera: Family-owned pharmacy already hurting during COVID-19 hit by looters in SJ
Garcia Pharmacy, a family-owned drugstore in Downtown San Jose, was targeted by looters on Sunday night.

SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) -- Garcia Pharmacy, a family-owned drugstore in Downtown San Jose, was targeted by looters on Sunday night.

The crime was caught on camera. A group of seven people got away with medication meant for hundreds of patients across the Bay Area.

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While Garcia Pharmacy works to repair damage and care for its patients, there's concern about where the prescription drugs might end up.

Just before 9 p.m.on Sunday, vandals are seen throwing a tire iron through the glass storefront of the pharmacy, which is located off East Santa Clara Street.

Surveillance cameras capture seven people running into the local drugstore.

In just two minutes, the group managed to cause almost $300,000 in damage, according to business owner and lead pharmacist, James Wong.

The crooks cleared out roughly 150 deliveries that were meant to go out to patients on Monday. They also damaged equipment and contaminated other medication.

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"The window was smashed and everything inside was just a mess," Wong told ABC7 News. "They shot off the fire extinguisher all over the medication. So, I have to destroy those medications, it's not sanitary."

Wong estimates the theft at $50,000. However, more than money, he's concerned about the patients now going without treatment. He said the pharmacy services mental health patients, clinics, adult residential facilities, and more.

"One guy was actually taking the time to read the label and kind of knew what he wanted. The other individuals just seemed to grab everything they could," he explained. "But they definitely came prepared. They threw a tire iron through the window, and they had duffel bags ready to take a lot of stuff. They cleared out all of our deliveries for Monday morning."

Wong said there are thousands of patients who rely on Garcia Pharmacy from across the Bay Area, Sacramento County, and south to Salinas.

"We're really behind because it was a whole day of cleaning up and the glass was all broken," pharmacist Christine Tran said. "It was really horrible."

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By Tuesday afternoon, the shop remained closed as Tran and others assessed inventory, documented losses, and tried to make sense of the looting.

"It's really cumbersome," Wong added. "And it's taking away time for us to even take care of our patients. We've had to really put a lot of people on hold."

He continued, "There were medications all over the ground. I'm not going to give that to people. It's wrong, and it's not safe for anyone."

Wong said the pharmacy was already struggling to get medications out on time because of COVID-19. Then protests impacted incoming shipments.

"I really do hope things get better for our community. It hurts everyone, the looting," he said. "I'm for the protest, but the looting's got to stop."

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Now, prescriptions meant for people who need them are in the wrong hands.

"It's very dangerous. Some of these medications are controlled, some are non-controlled. Depending if they take it incorrectly, they're going to hurt themselves," he told ABC7 News. "They put it in the water supply, the water filtration can only do so much. It's really, really dangerous."

He continued, "There needs to be close supervision to these medications, it's absolutely critical."

Wong said it's taken staff a lot longer to reconcile inventory, as the pharmacy is under strict reporting requirements.

He hopes Garcia Pharmacy will be back in business on Wednesday, with wrap-around boarding. It's a new look to deter any future looters.

After the incident, Wong took to Reddit to write about the experience. His post attracted hundreds to comment and share their support.

For that post, click here.