A Safeway employee was punched and knocked out while trying to detain teenagers suspected of shoplifting baby formula from the Safeway on California Street on Thursday, June 23, police said. Two teenage suspects got away with accomplices, while a third was arrested after more than $250 worth of baby formula was found in her purse, said Mountain View police spokeswoman Liz Wylie.
The struggle broke out when one store security employee tried to detain a girl of about 16 who was suspected of shoplifting formula. She resisted, and then another girl and a teenage boy ran up and punched the 21-year-old employee in the face, Wylie said. They threw him on the hood of a car, where he briefly lost consciousness, and then kicked him when he was on the ground, she said.
Those teens jumped into a gray SUV with several other teens and sped away, Wylie said.
Meanwhile, a 19-year-old store security employee chased after the 13-year-old girl who had wrestled free while being handcuffed. He caught the girl, handcuffed her and carried her back to the store when she refused to walk, Wylie said. Ten cans of baby formula worth $254.59 were found in her purse and a gift big she had allegedly taken from the store, Wylie said.
The incident started shortly before 3 p.m. when the 21-year-old Safeway employee noticed three girls walking into the store with what seemed to be empty purses. He followed them to the baby supplies aisle, where he observed them filling their purses with formula, and coordinated with his 19-year-old colleague who was monitoring surveillance cameras, she said.
"Baby formula is expensive," Wylie said in an email. "People steal it and then sell it on the street for cheaper than the stores sell it. It's a lucrative crime and not an uncommon product to steal."
This incident had the earmarks of an organized crime for profit, and not a case of young mothers stealing baby formula they could not afford in order to feed their babies, Wylie said.
Mountain View detectives have taken over the investigation and are working to identify the remaining suspects, said Wylie. The suspected shoplifter who got away is described as thin, black, about 5 feet 5 inches tall, between the ages of 16 and 17 and with long hair styled in an Afro, Wylie said. At least six people were in the SUV that fled the scene, she said.
The injured Safeway employee suffered scrapes and bruises, and had slurred speech and slight disorientation following the attack, Wylie said. He was taken to a local hospital.