News

Man robbed at gunpoint near City Hall in Palo Alto

Police investigating if incident connected to similar crime in Menlo Park

A man still at large allegedly robbed a man at gunpoint in downtown Palo Alto early Monday morning, police said.

Around 1:27 a.m., Palo Alto police received a call from a man who said he had been robbed in the last 10 minutes in the 200 block of Hamilton Avenue, near City Hall. He had gone to an open business in the 400 block of Emerson Street to call police; officers arrived to check the area but were unable to find the alleged robber.

The man, who is in his forties, had been walking eastbound on the north sidewalk of the 200 block of Hamilton around 1:15 a.m. when he was approached from behind by the alleged robber, who called out and demanded his cell phone and wallet, police said. When the man turned around, he saw the alleged robber was holding a black semi-automatic handgun. He initially had it pointed at the ground, but when the man did not immediately hand over his cell phone and wallet, he pulled back the slide on the gun as if to load a round, police said.

The man complied, giving over his cell phone and wallet. The alleged robber then ordered him to walk away eastbound on Hamilton Avenue; when he eventually looked back to see if he could see the alleged robber, he was gone. He did not see or hear a vehicle associated with the alleged robber. He was not injured, police said.

The man described the alleged robber as a light-skinned male of an unknown race, about 30 years old, five feet 10 inches tall and about 175 pounds with a medium build. Police said he was wearing dark sunglasses, a dark colored beanie, a dark long-sleeve shirt and dark pants at the time. The man who was robbed met with a police artist to produce a sketch (included with this story).

Detectives are actively investigating this case, which is the first armed robbery in Palo Alto in more than three months, police said.

The Menlo Park Police Department also investigated a similar armed robbery that happened at about 6:40 p.m. on Sunday, July 13, on Gilbert Avenue near Pope Street (less than two miles from this robbery). In that case, a white male dressed in manner similar to the alleged robber in Palo Alto and also armed with a semi-automatic pistol robbed two teens of their cell phones and wallets. Detectives from the two agencies are collaborating on the cases to determine if the same suspect is responsible. For more information about the Menlo Park case, contact Nicole Acker of the Menlo Park Police Department at 650-330-6325.

Anyone with information about the Palo Alto robbery is asked to call the Palo Alto Police Department's 24-hour dispatch center at 650-329-2413. Anonymous tips can be e-mailed to paloalto@tipnow.org or sent via text message or voice mail to 650-383-8984.

Comments

Posted by Mr.Recycle, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jul 14, 2014 at 9:53 pm

Sadly, we need video cameras downtown.


Posted by jerry99, a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 15, 2014 at 10:51 am

City Council should worry, like residents do, about robberies downtown and on California street and stop spending time approving new condos, hotels and businesses.
Likewise build some secure parking garages.


Posted by CrescentParkAnon., a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 15, 2014 at 11:15 am

I have to wonder what is going on here?

It has been quite a while since I noticed crimes in downtown Palo Alto. Specifically I recall when that young man was shot and killed right by City Hall maybe over a decade now. I think it started with a man was killed down by the train station one night ... even longer ago than that. I seem to see more crime on Palo Alto streets of innocent bystanders falling victim to people with guns.

Maybe by the numbers it's not a lot, but it is enough so that I am sure all or almost all Palo Altans take notice, and I'll bet quite a few people think about where they are and where they are going and when.

I find this so unacceptable in a town like Palo Alto, where the living standard and income is so high that we have problems like this with crime.

The only thing that I can think of that changed was the opening up of bars and businesses that catered to young adults and drinking. I used to see normal run of the day people walking up and down the streets of University, now it's like a little Mountain View, and Mountain View is a like a little San Jose.

Since some people cannot seem to handle freedom or accept responsibility and must ruin it for everyone else, I kind of wish they would go back to the days when they did not sell liquor anywhere near Stanford. People are also a lot ruder, drive much worse, and I associate that new norm with the crime. Whether there is an actual casual or relational link, who knows.


Posted by Crescent Park Dad, a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 15, 2014 at 11:47 am

While I don't want to discount your opinion, I don't think your stated concerns are relevant to what just happened. Given that there is a high probability that the two robberies were committed by the same person and that one was in a MP residential area and the other on a Sunday night/early Monday morning (not exactly fallout from a typical drinking night)...that the guy was dressed to commit the crimes, carried a hand gun...these were planned robberies and were for the exact same items - wallet and phone.

I just don't see how this is related to Palo Alto bars and/or restaurants.


Posted by Memories, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 15, 2014 at 12:03 pm

Crescent Park Dad is likely correct. This bad guy is looking for people to rob and isn't focused on bars. Let's hope he gets caught without hurting is anyone.


Posted by Lou M, a resident of Menlo Park
on Jul 15, 2014 at 12:09 pm

Robbers go where the money is.


Posted by Raymond, a resident of East Palo Alto
on Jul 15, 2014 at 12:43 pm

Potential Robbers are encouraged by the fact that after commission of a crime in downtown PA, no one seems to be arrested. It's dark, there are people walking around well after dark, and a disguise is all a person needs to get away with it.


Posted by Guy, a resident of Midtown
on Jul 15, 2014 at 12:57 pm

My cell phone was snatched right out of my hand on Saturday night near 7-11 around 9pm.The guy just took off running. The police need to patrol that area better a lot of illegal activity going down.


Posted by neighbor, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 15, 2014 at 1:01 pm

This is an awful crime and worrisome. This is a family community. I ask that the police patrol by walking (or how about cycling?) around downtown in the vicinity of the bars, especially close to the police station. There appears to be a real need for this visibility of police at night. We can all remember crimes that have occurred close to the police station!


Posted by Concerned, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jul 15, 2014 at 1:07 pm

This happened next to City Hall! We should ask ourselves why the robber was not deterred by potential police presence. We appear to pay our police to watch traffic and to harass our citizens with minor traffic or parking violations, instead of engaging in crime prevention.


Posted by Memories, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 15, 2014 at 1:14 pm

The lack of focus by Palo Alto residents on his daylight robbery in Menlo is disconcerting, but not surprising.


Posted by curmudgeon, a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 15, 2014 at 2:07 pm

"This happened next to City Hall! We should ask ourselves why the robber was not deterred by potential police presence."

This is actually an excellent crime venue. The cops on duty are cruising in their cars to provide citywide coverage. They do not hang around the station waiting for something to happen.

As many commuters seem to know, the 200 block of Forest Ave is one of the safest places in town to ignore stop signs. Telling, no?


Posted by boscoli, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jul 15, 2014 at 3:23 pm

The more we develop, the more crimes we will have. Before this endless orgy of development, and I'm not talking about the 1930s or even 1950s, but about the early 1980s, Palo Alto had so little crime, you could walk home from downtown well after midnight and not worry about anything. "Vibrant Palo Alto" has diminished our quality of life, safety and ability to enjoy this once wonderful town.


Posted by Mr.Recycle, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jul 15, 2014 at 3:59 pm

As we saw with the wave of burglaries a couple years ago, the police department is terribly understaffed, and there is typically no visible police presence in any part of the city, even in front of the police station. [Portion removed.]


Posted by Whew! , a resident of University South
on Jul 15, 2014 at 4:20 pm

This brings back memories of when a scientist, a father of twins, was murdered downtown several years ago.

I truly thought that security cameras would be installed after that horrible crime. But all these years later, we still do. to have them. They aren't that expensive, but they are certainly worth having, and this city is willing to spend money on stupid thing--so why not spend it on something really worthwhile? We don't have enough police--a friend who works for PAPD told me that the city is short about ten officers--to patrol everywhere, so why not install security cameras and prevent some crime?


Posted by CrescentParkAnon., a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 15, 2014 at 5:42 pm

The type of people that frequent downtown Palo Alto are totally different today than they were 20 years ago. Also the behavior of people has changed too. Someone like this guy can walk around and fit right in or not look suspicious or attract any attention. [Portion removed.]


Posted by CrescentParkAnon., a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 15, 2014 at 6:02 pm

There has been relatively a lot of violent crime in Palo Alto. How do we compare with the neighboring cities for stuff like this because it "seems" like Palo Alto is like the common area where they do to do stuff like this. It becomes incumbent on us to do what is necessary to deter it, but as far as I know we have not gotten serious about this because it is still infrequent and only affects a few individuals ... but it really affects all of us.

People have been walking on Palo Alto streets at night and robbed or accosted ... that means there are criminals driving around the city at night looking for trouble. I don't see Police cruisers cruising around at night like I used to either.


Posted by Thanks Weekly!, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Jul 15, 2014 at 6:47 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by Memories, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 15, 2014 at 11:44 pm

Crescent Park Anon, [portion removed]
The Menlo robbery didn't happen in Belle Haven, it happened close to the Palo Alto/Menlo border, in The Willows. Nor is Belle Haven the back door into downtown Palo Alto. If it happened in Belle Haven, it'd still be terrifying. [Portion removed.]


Posted by CrescentParkAnon., a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 15, 2014 at 11:53 pm

[Post removed.]


Posted by K, a resident of University South
on Jul 16, 2014 at 4:03 am

I live right downtown in that area and when I walk at night, I do worry a lot more these days. Yes, the traffic and attitude in general here is not what it once was. Palo Alto's downtown is being decentralized quickly as it loses its identity, its small business and family friendly and college town orientation and is being replaced with aggressive mega-corporate interest. There is not a sense of neighbor watching out for neighbor, that's for sure. All this big money has come to downtown, yet it feels so culturally impoverished. If we care so much about this place we live, then why isn't their more of a public safety presence?


Posted by resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 16, 2014 at 8:47 am

"K" has said it beautifully. We need a stronger police presence in
our City, for both traffic enforcement and crime prevention. The problem
starts with the City's decision, as traffic and safety issues have mounted
from massive over-development, to respond not with more police but with more
signs and paint all over the streets. That is the choice the City has made.
Now we have the worst of all worlds in Palo Alto - more traffic,unsafe streets, crime, ugliness all wrapped up together in a disastrous downward
spiral.


Posted by NotGood, a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 16, 2014 at 9:41 am

K and Boscoli are correct!!!

This town has gone to the pits because of the over development and all walks of life have migrated to this area and one doesn't even recognize a friendly neighbor anymore.

Hopefully some of the new city council candidates are reading this post. Our city needs help!

"Vibrant Palo Alto" has diminished our quality of life, safety and ability to enjoy this once wonderful town."


Posted by neighbor, a resident of another community
on Jul 16, 2014 at 11:08 am

Dear "Not Good"

Please clarify your phrase "all walks of life have migrated to this area and one doesn't even recognize a friendly neighbor anymore."

I want to know if that includes me.


Posted by boscoli, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jul 16, 2014 at 2:47 pm

If we don't stop development and the delusion that this small college town must match Manhattan, London and Los Angeles in vibrancy. energy and hyper commercial activity, we eventually become like Rio De Janeiro. Not in beauty, but those who will be able to afford it, will live behind tall walls protected by armed guards and Dobermans, traveling with bullet proofed cars and body guards, while the rest will live in permanent fear of violent crime. Unlike those cities which have large police forces trained to deal with serious crime, we are virtually unprotected from it because our police force is a small town type of law enforcement agency, understaffed and unprepared to deal with frequent serious crime. The dramatic change of Palo Alto, through an unprecedented development orgy from a quite suburb to what it is now may have crossed the point of no return.


Posted by neighbor, a resident of another community
on Jul 16, 2014 at 3:57 pm

[Portion removed.]

YES, Palo Alto's land-use WILL intensify. More condos, new commercial uses, new schools, higher capacity roads will alter the landscape.

It's part of the "deal with the devil" made by hosting Silicon Valley and its wealth. Growth goes with prosperity and brings change --- that has happened throughout our history. SV's prosperity makes your $70,000 house (built over old orchards and farms not so long ago) now worth $3 million, and everyday its value goes up more.

Palo Alto will never be the same as it was in the 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s. etc. It will look different, but think more in terms of a racially diverse Beverly Hills rather than a Third World City.


Posted by ugh, a resident of East Palo Alto
on Jul 16, 2014 at 4:17 pm

[Post removed.]


Posted by CudaEye, a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 16, 2014 at 4:42 pm

[Post removed.]


Posted by What?, a resident of another community
on Jul 16, 2014 at 9:18 pm

[Post removed.]


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