News Release News Release The City of Palo Alto
Communications Department
250 Hamilton Ave
Palo Alto, CA 94301


Subject :

Fire Department Assists With Capture of Black Friday Wallet Thief
Contact : Kara Apple, Sergeant, Police Department    650-329-2413
Palo Alto, CA -- An ambulance crew with the Palo Alto Fire Department, flagged down by a crowd of people who had witnessed a wallet theft at a downtown restaurant, followed the suspect through downtown and relayed information to the police that led to the suspect's arrest.

On Friday, November 29, 2013, at about 12:59 p.m., a Palo Alto Fire Department ambulance was stopped for a red signal light at the intersection of University Avenue and High Street.  A group of people ran up to the two firefighter / paramedics on board, pointed out a man walking northbound on the 400 block of High Street, and said he had just stolen a woman’s purse at a restaurant.  The Fire Department personnel radioed the information to our 24-hour dispatch center, who in turn notified the police.  The firefighters / paramedics called out to the suspect to stop, at which point the suspect started running away from them northbound on High Street.

The Fire Department personnel followed the suspect in their ambulance as the suspect ran eastbound on Lytton Avenue, crossed Alma Street, and disappeared into the pedestrian tunnel at the train station.  The firefighter / paramedics parked the ambulance and walked into the train station on foot, and last saw the suspect near the bus depot.  They radioed this information to our dispatchers as well, and a police officer arriving in the area stopped a bus leaving the scene just moments afterwards.  The officer located the suspect on the bus and detained him without incident.  There was not a patient in the ambulance at the time of this event.

The ensuing investigation revealed that a group of four friends had been having lunch together at Sprout Café, located at 168 University Avenue.  One of them, a woman in her forties, got up to use the restroom, and left her purse hanging on the back of her chair.  The suspect casually walked behind the chair, reached into the purse, removed the victim’s wallet, and placed it in another shopping bag he was carrying.  One of the victim’s friends at the table, a woman in her twenties, witnessed the theft and stood up to confront the suspect.  The suspect immediately replaced the wallet into the unattended purse and tried to leave.  The victim’s friend blocked his path out of the restaurant and started yelling for people to call the police.  The suspect pushed the woman out of her way and left the restaurant with a group of people following him.  The victim’s friend was not injured.

Once outside, an onlooker attempted to stop the suspect by grabbing onto the shopping bag he was carrying.  The bag broke off of the suspect’s shoulder.  The suspect abandoned the bag and ran westbound on University Avenue.  Witnesses then flagged down the ambulance from the Palo Alto Fire Department.  A witness picked up the bag and turned it over to the police.

Police learned that the suspect, 54-year-old Mohamed Benyouref of Berkeley, had three outstanding warrants for his arrest from San Francisco County (a felony possession of stolen property charge, a misdemeanor disturbing the peace charge, and a misdemeanor theft charge).  Police booked the suspect at the Santa Clara County Main Jail pursuant to those warrants, and also for theft and battery from this incident.  A booking photo of the suspect is attached to this release.

Officers later determined that the suspect’s abandoned shopping bag contained electronics he had stolen earlier the same day from the Apple Store at 340 University Avenue.  On December 4, the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office filed charges against Benyouref for two counts of theft and one count of battery (all three misdemeanors) as a result of his actions both at Sprout Café and at the Apple Store.

"During the holidays, with the crush of people shopping and dining, it’s even more important than usual to keep your personal items like purses, wallets, and cell phones in your possession at all times," said Lieutenant Zach Perron of the Palo Alto Police Department.  “Leaving your items unattended, even for just a couple of seconds or even with trusted friends nearby like in this case, may give a crook the opportunity they need to steal your belongings.”

Police recommend that anyone who witnesses a theft immediately call 9-1-1 and, and if possible, keep the thief under observation from a safe distance.  Anyone with information about this incident is asked to call our 24-hour dispatch center at 650-329-2413.  Anonymous tips can be e-mailed to or sent via text message or voice mail to 650-383-8984.