EXCLUSIVE: One of SF's last remaining news stands hit hard by brazen, Sunday morning burglary

The owner says SFPD took at least 7 hours to show up. He fears even if the culprits are caught, the DA will release them.

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Friday, February 25, 2022
EXCLUSIVE: One of SF's last news stands hit by brazen burglary
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Smoke Signals, one of San Francisco's last remaining news stands, was burglarized for $20,000 in products and a cash savings stashed in the store.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Under attack and in despair -- That's how at least one small business owner in San Francisco feels after a brazen robbery involving a power saw. This crime is eerily similar to another robbery, involving a tool we've never seen used in a crime before.

Owner of Smoke Signals magazine shop, Fadi Berbery, is somewhat of a San Francisco institution. Despite the rise in online publications, customers stream in and out of his store all day long.

"I'm one of the last news stands in San Francisco," he says. "In this industry I've lasted 27 years."

But what happened the morning of Sunday, February 20, was a first -- A break-in and robbery of epic proportions.

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Berbery shows surveillance video on his phone, and points to how a circular saw was used to slice open heavy duty iron gates.

Sparks fly in the video.

"Having two iron gates. Industrial locks. Having bars on my entry door. It's ridiculous," says Berbery.

Within a flash, about $20,000 in tobacco products, his emergency cash savings and even a tip jar for Pebbles the Shih Tzu, was stolen.

"I was like where are we? What country are we? I believe I'm not the only one suffering from this," Berbery said.

He's not. Just one neighborhood away, a small, independently-owned liquor store that requested not to be identified, also had a brazen break-in using a power saw. The way they concealed their crime made us do a double-take.

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A suspect can be seen around 8 a.m. on Monday, February 21, holding up a Black Lives Matter banner to cover up another man, who appears to be using a small electric saw that is tucked away in his sleeve.

An employee says the men can be seen for a good half hour or more, sawing through a lock and their gate.

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The man holding the banner even walks around when a pedestrian passes by. This shop lost $5,000 in cigarettes.

"It's so frustrating because they are so daring to do these things. Because they know the punishment is nothing compared to the loot they're going to walk out with," says Berbery.

While Berbery's insurance won't replace his emergency cash, which he was hoping to give part of to his only daughter for her 21st birthday, hard work, love for his community and his customers are what keeps him going.

Berbery says it took about seven or eight hours before police were able to respond to his shop, and believes if the suspects are eventually caught, that the district attorney will release them back into the public.

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He hopes those in positions of power who can make change, are watching this story.

"Nobody is doing anything about it, but yet we have to worry every night going home. This is not the San Francisco we know. I've been here 33 years."

A friend of Berbery's set up a GoFundMe in the wake of this brazen burglary, which you can donate to here.

SFPD is investigating both cases, however, said they can't make a connection between the two incidents.