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Jewelry heist, Tasering and more hit Los Altos

Photo Joe Hu/Town Crier

Thieves ripped through the sheetrock separating Harolds Jewelry and an income-tax accountant next door, entering the jewelers directly behind its safe.

Los Altos experienced a rash of unusual crimes and police incidents last week, including the city's first use of a Taser, the controversial, nonlethal alternative to firearms, and the fourth – and most sophisticated – in a series of jewelry store heists.

Jewelry robbery

Burglars struck Harold's Jewelry at 164 Main St. sometime in the early morning Sunday, breaking through a wall from the income-tax accounting office next door.

Los Altos Police Detective John Korges reported that the crime was more complex than recent "smash-and-grab" jewelry thefts, circumventing the security system and breaking through the wall directly behind the jewelry store's safe. He said jewelry and loose stones worth $300,000 to $400,000 appear to have been stolen. The thieves used only commercial-grade tools – the kind available in retail stores – to crack the safe, according to Korges.

"Because of the heavy loss and our concern for downtown safety, we called on the county crime lab on this one," Korges said.

Korges said the case remains under investigation. The burglary is the third jewelry store heist on Main Street in the past month. A fourth attempted robbery occurred in late August.

Halloween gunshot

At approximately 9:30 p.m. on Halloween, an off-duty San Francisco police officer allegedly fired a single shot from a handgun at a party on Arbor Avenue in the unincorporated area southwest of Los Altos. Witnesses identified the officer involved as Sgt. Mike Evanson, who lives nearby, and said that he described it as an accidental discharge.

Several witnesses, who asked not to be identified, described the party as a casual multifamily gathering on a front lawn, intended to observe the hordes of passing trick-or-treaters.

Evanson, who had dropped by with his wife, allegedly began urinating in the front yard, according to witness accounts, and was asked to stop. It was almost immediately after that the gun discharged, but no attendees at the party said they could see the weapon.

Santa Clara County Sheriff's deputies who responded to the incident did not arrest Evanson or charge him with a crime.

"We conducted an investigation at the scene by interviewing all the involved parties and the officer. From that point, we determined that it was accidental, it wasn't negligent and there was no malice behind it," said Sheriff's Deputy Donald Morrissey.

He said he believed the responding deputies also would have evaluated Evanson for sobriety. "We documented the incident and forwarded it to the San Francisco Police Department."

San Francisco Police Sgt. Lyn Tomioka said an internal investigation is pending in her department. She could not release any additional information as the issue is a personnel matter.

Evanson couldn't be reached for comment.

"Why did he remove the gun from a secure location to begin with, why was the gun out? And why was he carrying it (at all)?" asked an attendee from the party, who asked not be named.

Korges, commenting generally on police procedure with firearms, said that officers are sometimes armed off-duty but must remain clean and sober.

"Things can go wrong with guns and people do make mistakes," he said. "Most police-issue firearms have multiple safeties," he said, "because we do drop them."

Taser incident

Los Altos Police responded to a single-vehicle crash at El Monte Avenue and El Camino Real at approximately 1 p.m. Oct. 30 and observed the driver grow "combative with a Mountain View police officer," Kor-ges said. He said the driver appeared to be under the influence of an intoxicant. Los Altos Sgt. Scott McCrossin used a Taser to subdue the driver, which Korges described as "definitely within policy, and definitely a prudent use of the Taser."

The Los Altos Police Department will examine the Taser recording of the incident to evaluate the circumstances, Korges said, and also took statements from civilian witnesses. Department officers have been equipped with Tasers for approximately two years, and this is the first time one has been used on a suspect.

Shoe robbery

Los Altos police arrested a 28-year-old employee of Footwear Etc., 316 Main St., Oct. 29 for allegedly stealing approximately $8,000 in footwear from the store and attempting to resell the shoes on eBay.

The suspect, William Vo of San Jose, was in possession of four allegedly stolen credit cards and shoes allegedly stolen from the store when police searched his home, Korges said.

 

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