Store manager Kathy Barron, accompanied by family, beamed in the Menlo Park council chambers as she accepted a commendation from the city's police department for her role in apprehending the thief.
She'd spotted 70-year-old Kenji Hamasalui as he cased the store's safe on Feb. 26. He was easy to recognize, having reportedly been caught on security video during a November burglary of Village Stationers while wearing the same outfit. He ducked out of the store despite Ms. Barron's protests.
Unwilling to let the day's proceeds walk away, she followed him on a low-speed foot chase around downtown Menlo Park.
She finally grabbed the man by the arm and patted his jacket, hearing the tattletale crackle of paper bags like the sort the store uses to stash the day's sales.
Police, called by a bystander, arrested him near Applewood Pizza and watched as bags fell out of his jacket, stuffed with the $3,500 missing from the store's safe.
So Mr. Hamasalui spent April 24 in county jail. He had pleaded no contest in San Mateo Superior Court to one count of felony burglary and one count of felony theft, earning a sentence of two years and eight months, according to the district attorney's office.
Mr. Hamasalui is well-acquainted with the county's facilities — he's been convicted at least three times before in San Mateo County between 1997 and 2007 for theft both grand and petty.