Blake Bäkken, a design director at Venables Bell & Partners on his way to the San Francisco MOMA to meet his partner, stopped walking so he could send him a text. It was Super Bowl Sunday morning — bright and sunny.
“See you there in a bit,” the text read. As he hit send, a young man yanked the phone out of Blake’s hand. The two men locked frozen glances for a split second and Blake blurted:
“You seriously just took my phone?” But when the man bolted, Blake decided he couldn’t get away with it. “That guy stole my phone,” he yelled as he started chasing him down the street. Others heard the distress call and started running after him too. But the bandit disappeared into the distance.
Seeing the chase, a man in an SUV pulled over and told Blake to get in. They drove around a couple of times, saw nothing and pulled up by a Starbucks.
“Holy shit,” he said, “that’s him!” And in a Mercurian moment, Blake flew out of the SUV with wings on his feet, and full-throated adrenaline. He continued to scream, “that guy stole my phone,” and the hunting party grew.
With nowhere to go, the phone pirate ducked into a dark alleyway, quickly realized it was a dead end and exited back out. Blake could see it was a dead end too, but was following so quickly that he clipped the building with his shoulder and was taken down by the impact.
By now, two more men had tackled the thief. “Is this the guy?” Within minutes, foot police showed up, an ambulance appeared, and the man was handcuffed. The tackle dudes procured the phone.
The thief looked at Blake: “I’m sorry, you didn’t deserve it and I shouldn’t have done that to you.”
The man’s ID tied him to Omaha. “Oh, are you from Occupy Oakland?” Yes, he was. The police said he was part of a trend; Occupiers from Oakland coming across the Bay to steal from the 1%.
He was in his early 20s. He had dishwater blonde hair. He wore a grey hoodie, cutoff shorts, and high-top sneakers. He didn’t look criminal or homeless or scary.
The ambulance took Blake to the hospital, dispensed pain meds, set his shoulder back into place. But as he lay there, his shoes begin to feel too tight. When removed, the doctor discovered his big toes were broken on each foot.
He’s felt torn: Sometimes he wonders, was it all worth it? Did he do the right thing? He has come to a conclusion: the best part is knowing there are people in San Francisco that will help you if you ask for it.
Blake said that he’s afraid of the “thug part” of the Occupy Movement, which he intellectually supported and whose mission statement he took upon himself to understand. “My experience from this incident and others tells me that the movement has lost its focus.”
A couple weeks after the incident, Blake realized his shoulder wasn’t healing properly. Surgery’s required to mend the shoulder tendons.
Photo: Angela Frucci