EXCLUSIVE: Bizarre theft turned food fight in SF Walgreens raises questions of public safety

A professional photographer filmed the incident and shared the footage with ABC7 News: "I'm not scared of bananas and Chips Ahoy!"

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ByDion Lim via KGO logo
Friday, March 4, 2022
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A bizarre and brazen theft that turned into a food fight in a San Francisco Walgreens is raising questions about public safety.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- It isn't uncommon to capture brazen thefts at retail stores in San Francisco and the Bay Area -- But an incident recorded at a Richmond District Walgreens where customers were assaulted by the suspect, is raising concerns about not just theft itself, but what store employees, security and customers can do in response.

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In the cell phone video, recorded by professional photographer Nicholas Stennet, you can see two Walgreens employees behind the counter, trying to signal for help as a man dressed in black fills up a large bag with items.

"We have this person that is... taking everything from the counter," says one employee into the phone.

Stennet has witnessed these crimes before, but never anticipated jumping in to record, especially after he says the suspect knocked a man's phone out of his hand who was trying to record moments earlier.

"He goes behind the counter taking stuff, maybe some COVID tests, a tray of batteries, some electronics."

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Several employees at the Outer Richmond store in the area of 42nd and Geary looked on, waiting for help to arrive. Meantime, the suspect, with stunning calmness, cherry-picks items to place into his bag.

"I feel bad for the workers," says Stennet.

At one point another customer tried to intervene, challenging the suspect with, "what, you want to go?"

The suspect then grabbed bunches of bananas and hurled them at the customer.

"There's banana's blazing everywhere!" exclaims Stennet.

When the customer tried to fight back, reaching for more bananas, you can hear a store employee say "no, no, no, no!" in an effort to try to deescalate the situation. The customer ignored the request and threw bananas back.

WATCH: Thief steals garbage bag full of items from SF Walgreens with security filming in plain sight

"The guy (the suspect) then comes back with some Chips Ahoy to throw back at him!" exclaims Stennet.

Jim Rita is a former law enforcement officer from California and president of SRS Protection which provides security to businesses and places of worship in five states.

He says providing security in California... is challenging.

"There are several states we work in where security officer are allowed to do their jobs. In the good old days we could put them in cuffs take them in the back and call the cops. The store would prosecute."

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Rita doesn't recommend bystanders confront a suspect in the act.

"We don't want the citizen get hurt either, I know frustrating it is."

Though he believes, if video can be taken safely, like how Stennet did, it can help law enforcement.

"If there's no gun involved I'm not scared of bananas and Chips Ahoy!" beams Stennet who continues, "If I can raise a little awareness and help with the prosecution, that would be nice."