Civic Center, San Francisco, California, United States

Chasing Thieves (2 of 3)

We were riding home from seeing Devendra Banhart at the Regency Ballroom. A few girls were shouting for help near Turk on Polk.

“That guy just got mugged! The mugger ran that way!”

We all stood astraddle our bikes and sort of said “Is he OK?” or simply, “Huh, wow.” But the girls looked at us like we were stupid. One of them said, “Do something! Chase him!”

So we sped off. I rode fast and just around the corner on Golden Gate spotted a big guy, running effortedly but slowly, holding a big leather bag in one hand and his pants in another. About 15 feet behind him I shouted, “Hey!” But–what would I even do if I caught him? Could he have a knife? Even if not, he probably felt more desperate about that bag than me.

So a low-speed chase ensued. My friends caught up and the five of us trailed him slowly, keeping our distance. This could have gone on for some time, but he turned into this McDonald’s parking lot and was trapped. We lined up along the outside of the lot, bike-gang style, while he pounded on the doors of the closed McDonald’s begging to be let through to the Van Ness exit opposite. The sole employee stopped mopping and stared dumbly at the mugger and at us.

The mugger threw the bag toward us and Danielle picked it up. He pulled up his pants and walked as nonchalantly as he could down the street. We weren’t sure what to do next when a police car happened to drive by. Josh rode up to the window and pointed out the mugger–the cops immediately flipped on their siren and pulled a U-turn, headed the wrong way down Golden Gate. The mugger ran across Van Ness and into the plaza, where suddenly other police cars materialized. He was surrounded and quickly wrestled to the ground.

The victim came up to us for the first time. He had just finished his shift dishwashing and was getting on his scooter. He suspected the mugger and an apparent accomplice were up to no good, but dismissed it as paranoia. When he bent over to unlock his bike, he was punched in the back of the head and they grabbed his messenger bag.

We returned it. “Thanks,” he said. “I just moved here three days ago. From Nebraska.”