A shoplifter known to plague businesses throughout the Lower Haight and Divisadero corridors is back at it, allegedly robbing Cafe du Soleil and Greenburger's multiple times in the past week.
The man, Odis Gillard, has been arrested more than 150 times in a criminal career that spans 22 years.
If the name sounds familiar, you may recall a story we posted last April, in which Gillard robbed Cafe Divis for what was then the fifth time in two months. Gillard was chased down by employees and arrested.
A couple of months later, in June of 2011, we received word from an employee at Cafe du Soleil that the man had been targeting the location.
"Sunday June 11th a 6 foot 2 tall old black man (60's) stole a handful of cash out of our tip jar at Cafe du Soleil. I told him he was on camera and some fellow customers asked him to give it back. He gave me 2 crumpled up bills and took off running. I called the cops and gave them the report and asked for the CAD#. They did show but it was too late.
The same man came in when I was working on Tuesday night and tried to do the same thing. This time I got the tip jar away in time. I told him I wouldn't serve him because he stole from me. He said it was a lie and started to act up. I grabbed my phone to call and he left.
...He came in again today. Wednesday night around 7pm I took the tip jar away in time (mind you it is a basket with holes) grabbed a quarter off the counter just to piss me off and walked away."
The employee mentioned that this particular shoplifter had been targeting the nearby Three Twins Ice Cream as well, so we checked in with their then-manager Carrie Heim. At the time, Heim told us:
"Yep, that guy has robbed from us too. No one has reported him, but one of my employees actually begged for her tip money back and he gave it back to her--the generosity!
He is very well known in the area, and he makes his rounds every few weeks. Most of my employees know him by sight and he knows he's not allowed in the store. If he attempts to come, we just ask him to leave and he's fine with it."
Via email last June, Captain Ann Mannix of SFPD's Northern Station told us that police were aware of Gillard and his extensive criminal history.
"[T]his guy is a career criminal (starting here in 1990) arrested for 79 felony crimes and 78 misdemeanor crimes. And it is not the same crime every time. Doesn't mean he was convicted for all of them. He has several stay away restraining orders from various locations in the city. His record shows that he has been 'encountered' by us all over the city.
Merchants should refuse service or even entry into their establishments. If he refuses to leave call us. If he enters and employees may be too intimidated to say say anything, call us. emergency 9-1-1, non emergency 553-0123. I will have my guys put out an information flyer for the businesses describing him and his mo."
Over the next couple of months, Gillard apparently became more scarce in the neighborhood. The Cafe du Soleil employee began pursuing a stay-away order, but learned that it's a more involved process than she expected, and eventually she let the issue go.
Then, this past Monday, she told us Gillard had returned.
"This past Saturday he stole from Greenburger and Cafe du Soleil and assaulted me. He shoved me really hard trying to get past me throw the front door. He threw bananas at the door, picked up tree branches like he was going to use them as a weapon. He was arrested shortly afterward."
Stefanie Nudelman, co-owner of Greenburger's, confirmed that Gillard had being hitting the restaurant.
"Probably around 6 months ago he came in and asked the cashier for a cup of hot water. She gladly got the water but when her back was turned he was able to grab all of the tips from the tip jar in one swoop. She yelled at him to stop but he was out the door before anything could happen. We have warned all of our employees about the man, description, etc and let them know to watch out, as well as to be careful with the open tip jar and to change out the jar often.
During the art walk the other week he returned for the first time since that incident. Matt caught a glimpse of him and immediately told him that if he was coming in the restaurant to steal the tips that he should please leave. He got upset and said that he was not there to steal, although it was obvious to us that he was not there to do anything but that. It was very busy so it was hard to make sure he left, instead we instructed the cashier to remove the tip jar from the counter. He ended up waiting in line and when he got close enough, stole the donation can for the Haight Ashbury Food Bank. Our cashier yelled for him to stop and I ran over to grab the can. I also yelled at him and told him that he could go to the food bank to get some free food if he was hungry but that he shouldn't steal the money that we were collecting for them. Although he tried hard to leave with the can, I think he was some how scared off by Matt, who was coming out of the kitchen at the time. He handed me the can and left.
I was pretty sure that was the last we were going to see of him since we made sure that staff knew he had been back.
Of course you know he returned on Sunday. Unfortunately too many of us had our backs turned and he was able to get his hand in the tip jar. The cashier noticed and immediately ran over and yelled at him to put the money back. As he has done in the past he swore he didn't take anything, although there was ones coming out of his jacket pockets. Both myself and the cashier tried to get the money back but instead just ended up getting him to leave. To my knowledge someone that was eating here called to notify the police of the incident after he made quite a scene.
When asked why they didn't call the police themselves after each of these incidents, Nudelman wrote:
"We didn't call the cops the other night because it was too busy at the time to worry about it. We also felt that he didn't have any weapons and just got away with a few dollars so there wasn't much the police could do.
We didn't realize he had been such a problem in the neighborhood. If we had known that we might have made a different decision about involving the police."
With all of the recent activity, and the physical assault against her, the Cafe du Soleil employee is now proceeding with pursuing the stay-away order. As she notes, it's one thing to get a stay-away order just for Cafe du Soleil, but quite another to get one for the whole neighborhood. Police tell her she needs to get them to ask the D.A.'s office to ask a judge for it, and that takes lobbying from the Lower Haight community. It's not as simple as just filling out a form.
In the meantime, she sent us the above still image from the Cafe's surveillance footage, depicting Gillard mid-robbery. She wants to spread the image to surrounding businesses in the hopes of encouraging them to be alert in case Gillard targets them. Nudelman confirms that this is the same man who targeted Greenburger's over the weekend.
For the employee of Cafe du Soleil, it's about more than just recovering a few stolen dollars. It's about a threat to her safety, and a perceived tolerance of petty crimes in the neighborhood.
"For me it is beyond the fact that it is a few dollars... [B]eing a young girl, I feel completely harassed and picked on and it is getting to my head that people keep telling me it is not a big deal. My example I want people to understand is if you stop people at small offenses they won't do bigger offenses. People aren't taking it seriously, neither are the cops and I want people's attitudes or minds to shift."
We've contacted SFPD for further comment, and will update this story accordingly.
Update: If you'd like to voice your support for a stay-away order, stop by Cafe du Soleil. They'll have a sign-up sheet to collect your name and contact information.