Smoke Signals magazine store owner Fadi Berbery is something of a San Francisco institution. Despite the increase in online posts, customers are coming in and out of her store all day.
“I’m one of the last newsstands in San Francisco,” he says. “In this industry, I lasted 27 years.”
But what happened on the morning of Sunday February 20 was a first – A break-in and robbery of epic proportions.
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Berbery shows surveillance video on his phone showing how a circular saw was used to open heavy-duty iron doors.
Sparks fly in the video.
“Having two iron gates. Industrial locks. Having bars on my front door. It’s ridiculous,” Berbery says.
In a flash, about $20,000 in tobacco products, his emergency savings, and even a tip jar for Pebbles the Shih Tzu, were stolen.
“I was like where are we? What country are we in? I believe I’m not the only one suffering from this,” Berbery said.
He is not. Just a neighborhood away, a small independent liquor store who asked not to be identified, was also the victim of a brazen break-in using an electric saw. The way they covered up their crime made us do a double take.
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A suspect can be seen around 8am on Monday February 21, holding up a Black Lives Matter banner to cover another man, who appears to be using a small power saw which is hidden up his sleeve.
An employee says the men can be seen for a good half hour or more, sawing through a lock and their door.
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The man holding the banner walks around even when a pedestrian passes by. This store lost $5,000 in cigarettes.
“It’s so frustrating because they’re so bold to do these things. Because they know the punishment is nothing compared to the loot they’re going to walk away with,” Berbery says.
Although Berbery’s insurance won’t replace his emergency money, some of which he hoped to give to his only daughter on her 21st birthday, hard work, love for his community and customers is what keeps him going. .
Berbery says it took about seven or eight hours before police could respond to his store and believes that if the suspects are eventually arrested, the district attorney will make them public.
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He hopes those in positions of power who can effect change watch this story.
“No one is doing anything about it, but yet we have to worry every night on our way home. This isn’t the San Francisco we know. I’ve been here 33 years.”
A friend from Berbery created a GoFundMe in the wake of this brazen heist, which you can donate to here.
The SFPD is investigating both cases, but said it could not link the two incidents.
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