Workers at a San Francisco grocery store have spoken out after one of the shop’s security guards was shot trying to stop shoplifters.
The Saturday shooting outside a Balboa Park Safeway on Mission Street has left some workers scared to go to work, they told The Standard on condition of anonymity.
The shooting suspect has been named as 50-year-old Andre Brown. He was arrested by police on several charges, including attempted murder after he allegedly shot a security guard. Brown remains in police custody.
One employee at the Safeway said that they feel threatened by the brazen nature of a shoplifter shooting a security guard.
“If you ask anyone here, they’ll say they feel unsafe,” the worker said. “If I say something, what if they come in and shoot me? Or if I’m walking home, and they, you know?” the worker said, making a gesture of being hit with a blunt object.
Another Safeway worker said they are worried about future shootings, adding that kids often shop in the store, which is close to Balboa High School.
“Yeah, I’m nervous. One day, you’re here, and then one day, you’re not,” the worker said.
Mario Ching often shops at the Mission Street Safeway for his work as a DoorDash shopper. He said the shooting has made him nervous but feels it is just a part of life due to the frequency of mass shootings in the U.S., which he said are rare in Peru, where he is originally from.
“I don’t know; everywhere is dangerous,” Ching said.
Vince Bic, who lives nearby and was packing groceries into the trunk of his car as he spoke, was more shaken by the shooting. Bic said he may shop elsewhere in the future.
A security guard who asked to not be named said that he knew the guard who was shot and is now considering working security away from retail. He said shoplifters know security guards aren't allowed to grab them, and that emboldens them.
“I’m thinking of getting another job. I don’t want to be so stressed out,” said the guard. “Maybe I can work at a hospital or something.”
Security guard union SEIU-United Services Workers West spokesperson Stephen Boardman said he has heard more members share concerns about threats to their physical safety since the pandemic.
Boardman believes more security officers are needed to deal with people who have mental illnesses and can be violent.
“Things are moving beyond the job description,” Boardman said. “More and more officers are being asked to de-escalate or deal with people with mental illnesses, and they don’t get the training to deal with these things.”
Local supervisor Ahsha Safai said he was shocked about the shooting, adding that failing to stop retail theft has damaged the city’s reputation, endangered workers and discouraged businesses from operating here, pointing to Cotopaxi’s recent temporary store closure in San Francisco.
"This is something we're making a priority more than everywhere else I think. It has a negative impact on the city,” Safai said. “Safeway is one of the unofficial town centers of that neighborhood. People from all walks of life shop there.”
Safai added he has been convening a stakeholder forum called the Commercial Retail Theft Working Group.
Safai, the San Francisco Police Department and the District Attorney's Office, are holding a virtual community town hall Wednesday at 4 p.m. in response to the shooting.
Wendy Gutshall, a spokesperson for Albertsons, Safeway’s parent company, said in a statement that the company’s “thoughts and best wishes are with the security guard” but declined to answer any questions, citing an ongoing investigation into the shooting.
Garrett Leahy can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org