Tuesday, January 19, 1993 was the day from Hades at work. Tons of help calls, computer moves, etc. wore me to a frazzle. I was so stressed, at one point I started thinking about my dad and began to sob uncontrollably at my desk (fortunately, this was toward the end of the day). I remembered we were going out to dinner with our friends, Gail and Steve, and thought this would at least be a pleasant ending to a rough day.
Boy, was I WRONG!!!!
We went to a wonderful Burmese restaurant called Mandalay, in a quiet, residential area of San Francisco known as the inner Richmond (4th and California, for those of you familiar with the city). We had a delicious meal, and lingered on chatting after our dessert of fried bananas. I noticed Gail was looking over my shoulder towards the front door. Her eyes suddenly opened VERY wide and she she said, "What is going ON? Oh, my God!" Eliott and I turned around to see a young Asian man pointing a gun at us!! Eliott calmly advised me to turn back around, very slowly, and not say anything.
I can honestly say I've never been more frightened in my life. I really thought the next sensation I would have was that of a bullet blasting into my skull. Yes, my life DID flash before my eyes - actually a series of still images, mostly of family. The four of us stared silently at the table, waiting for the gunman to approach us for our money. For some crazy reason, I quietly opened my bag, which was on my lap, and handed Eliott $40 out of my wallet with vague instructions to "just do something with this!" I left a $20 in my wallet, figuring the guy wouldn't believe me if I said I had nothing. Eliott tossed the bills under the table and put his foot on them.
Fortunately for us, the young man was only interested in the till, and stayed near the front door. We definitely got a good look at him, though (except for Steve, who was wearing an old pair of glasses with an old prescription!), and waited for the police to arrive. They first interviewed a table of three near the door, who must have got a VERY good look (and must have been more terrified than we were). The waitress who was ordered to open up the register was too afraid of retaliation to talk to the investigators. The rest of the staff hapened to be in the kitchen when all this went on, and didn't see a thing.
° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° °
Officer Phil Wong of the Gang Task Force gave us a call last Monday, asking us to come to a line-up on Wednesday. We arrived at 6 p.m. and waited for other victims and witnesses to show up. Steve was back in L.A., and Gail was afraid to come, as she is a shop owner and lives in the vicinity of the robbery (Eliott lectured her for 10 minutes about her duty, etc., but she didn't go. She later agreed to look at photos and a video of the line-up). In all, about 15 people out of 25 contacted showed up. We were handed cards with 6 figures on one side, and instructions on the other. The officers explained the instructions to us VERY thoroughly - even the slightest misunderstanding by any of us could result in the case being thrown out.
Finally, we were taken upstairs to what looked like an elementary school auditorium. The stage was illuminated with very bright lights, so the men in the line-up couldn't see us. This still made me a little uneasy, as I had hoped we'd be behind a two-way mirror, but the officers reassured everyone that we couldn't be seen frm the stage. In advance, requests were made for the line-up to do and say things people had heard and seen in the robberies (there were several crimes this guy had committed!). We were seated apart from each other, and instructed not to discuss the case or who we thought was the criminal with any one else. I wondered if I would be able to choose the right person.
We looked at a total of 18 different people. As the second line walked out, I commented, "And now for the talent portion of our competition!" I later noticed that there was a piano at the edge of the stage!! When the last line-up walked out on the stage, they were all wearing shower caps!! Many of us in the audience laughed quietly, it looked so ridiculous! But #4 was the guy! Eliott knew immediately; I took about a minute to really be sure. We asked if they could take off the shower caps, but one of the officers said they could not honor our request. Since we remembered the guy's unusual haircut, we knew this had to be why they were covering it up.
Later, we found out that the defendant's lawyer was present, and that he and the defendant have the right to run the show. They chose the men who would appear in the line-up, they decided which line the defendant would be in, and decided the last line would all wear shower caps!! When we were debriefed afterwards, I commented that it was too bad they couldn't remove the shower caps, because I recalled the thief had a very distinctive haircut. The officer smiled and replied, "He still does!"
At this point we don't know any more about the case, or the other robberies. Hopefully they have enough information to put this fellow away for a while! I'll keep you all posted...