Student vigilante tries to recover stolen phone

SFPD Officer Pheng interviews Nao Funada, a computer science major, who had her Android phone snatched from her at a bus stop on 19th and Holloway Avenues. A bystander nearby chased after the thieves, who eventually got away in a four door sedan on Tuesday, Feb. 19, 2013. Photo by Joe Fitzgerald / Xpress

An SF State student was allegedly mugged tonight on 19th Ave. as she waited for her bus home, losing her Android phone to two thieves in the latest electronics theft to hit campus.

The victim, Nao Funada, a 20-year-old computer science major, was looking at a blog on her cell phone as she waited at the bus stop at 19th and Holloway Avenues at about 8 p.m. Surrounded by other students waiting for the bus, the thief made his move and snatched the phone straight from her hands, according to Funada.

The petite Funada was too shocked to react, she said, and stood there as the thief and an accomplice ran up Holloway. In the past six months there have been four thefts, three assaults, and one case of someone brandishing a gun at the same bus stop, according to data from the San Francisco Police Department. Campus police data shows there have been six electronics thefts on campus in the past two months.

Usually they’ll ask for directions, and when you show them your map, they snatch it out of your hands, police said.

This familiar story has a twist though: a bystander watching the theft chased after the thieves as they made a dash to their getaway car.

“I just thought, I had to do something,” Evan Welohr, a 21-year-old fine arts major, said. Welohr is slim and with his long blonde hair he looks more like Shaggy from “Scooby Doo” than a vigilante. His small size didn’t stop him though.

“I tried to stop him as he was running by,” he said. “I tried to chase him up the hill. They got to a car, but one turned around and had an object that I assumed was a knife. He approached, clearly brandishing something, and told me to ‘fuck off.'”

Welohr didn’t run or shy away, but he’s not stupid.

“I tried to keep some distance enough so that I could you know, dodge,” he said.

And then it was over, the thieves got in their sedan and drove off. Witnesses at the scene struggled to remember what the car looked like, and no one had an accurate description, not even the victim.

“I feel a lot of gratitude,” Funada said, sniffling as she spoke. ” I’m slow, I can’t run fast… (Welohr) ran really fast.”

Funada didn’t get a good look at the guys, and only remembered that they were wearing bandanas around their faces, one red, and one striped. One witness however, recognized one of the thieves.

“He used to live in Ingleside, it’s a bad corner with a place called the dream team,” Julia White, an SF State senior in art history, said. She said she used to see him around Ingleside all the time, and saw him selling marijuana on the street, and cat-calling at women.

“I saw him when I was walking up and said ‘hell no,'” she said. She walked a few feet from him while she waited for her bus. White said he was wearing a dark jacket and a dark beanie and was somewhere around 20, about  5-foot-9,  and skinny, with a “bit of a baby face.”

For his part, the student vigilante Evan Welohr wasn’t too shaken up.

“I’m cold, I want to take the bus. I’m hungry, I want to get dinner,” he said. “I wished I could’ve done more.”

Was it frightening? “I just didn’t think about it,” Welohr said.