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Palo Alto Citizens, Firefighters Help Nab Suspected Thief

Man chased by crowd and ambulance workers after allegedly trying to steal a wallet from a handbag on Black Friday.

-- By Bay City News Service

Onlookers, firefighters and police in downtown Palo Alto helped capture a suspected thief on Black Friday.

Mohammed Benyouref, 54, of Berkeley, was arrested on suspicion of misdemeanor theft and battery and three outstanding arrest warrants from San Francisco County, according to Palo Alto Police Department Sgt. Kara Apple.

At about 1 p.m. Friday, an ambulance occupied by two firefighter-paramedics from the Palo Alto Fire Department were stopped at a red light at the intersection of University Avenue and High Street, Apple said.

 A group of people ran up and pointed to a man walking in the 400 block of High Street, who they said had just stolen a woman's purse at a nearby restaurant.

The firefighter-paramedics radioed the news to the police department's dispatch center, and then yelled at the man to stop as he ran north on High Street, she said. 

The ambulance pursued the man, who then ran east on Lytton Avenue and across Alma Street into a pedestrian tunnel at the Palo Alto Caltrain station, Apple said.

The firefighter-paramedics walked into the train station, saw the suspect near the bus depot and radioed police, who stopped a moving bus nearby, found Benyouref inside and arrested him, she said.

The ordeal began as a group of friends were eating at the Sprout Cafe at 168 University Ave. when a woman in the group went to the bathroom but left her purse hanging on the back of her chair, police said.

 A woman at the table told police she witnessed Benyouref take a wallet out of the purse and place it into a shopping bag he was carrying, Apple said.

The female witness confronted the suspect, who replaced the wallet in the purse and tried to leave. The woman blocked his path, however, and called out for someone to phone police, Apple said.

 The suspect pushed her aside and exited the restaurant while some people from the business followed him, Apple said.

 During the pursuit, when an onlooker attempted to grab the suspect's shopping bag, the bag broke off the suspect's shoulder and he abandoned it while trying to run west on University Avenue, according to Apple.

 The group following Benyouref then spotted the ambulance and contacted the firefighter-paramedics.

 Police later learned that the shopping bag Benyouref had left behind contained electronics items he allegedly stole earlier that day from the Apple Store at 340 University Ave., Apple said.

Benyouref was charged with two counts of misdemeanor petty theft and one count of misdemeanor battery by the Santa Clara County District Attorney's Office, according to a court clerk. 

He was set for arraignment yesterday in Superior Court in Palo Alto. 

 The three outstanding warrants for Benyouref's arrest in San Francisco were for felony possession of stolen property, misdemeanor disturbing the peace and misdemeanor theft, police said.

Copyright © 2013 by Bay City News, Inc. -- Republication, Rebroadcast or any other Reuse without the express written consent of Bay City News, Inc. is prohibited.

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