Thief mars merchant’s efforts to help victim

After 4-year-old Juan Mendoza’s death, store owner Farah Massis looked for some way to help.

“The accident with the kid hurt me so much,” Massis said. He decided to begin a collection in a jar on his store’s counter. In an interview on Friday he pointed out a 4-pound container of Red Vines.

“It was about this big,” he said, and almost full when, on Monday, a man offering “protection” almost made off with it.

“It was about 7:45 a.m. I had just opened. I was preparing the coffee,” Massis said, when a large man carrying a huge duffel bag came into the store.

“I said ‘how can I help you,’” Massis said. “He said ‘I’m here to help you.’” The man eventually explained that he wanted to protect Massis from theft, an offer the store owner declined.

As Massis stood at the end of the counter opposite the donation jar, the man grabbed it and ripped it off its chain, he said. Massis leaned over the counter and caught the man by the arms as he ran out the door.

“I held him for at least three or four minutes by the arms, then he bit me. That’s when I let go,” Massis said, indicating a scab on his finger.

Massis chased the man out the door and up Leavenworth Street, where the man briefly tried to attack him with a board before ducking into the garage of an apartment building. The man ran into the elevator of the building, where he was trapped until police arrived.

District Attorney’s Office spokeswoman Bilen Mesfin said the office is charging the man with felony second-degree theft. His name was not immediately available Friday.

Massis is still collecting donations for Juan’s family, but now accepts them over the counter and forwards them on to a fund set up for Juan’s family by Glide Memorial Methodist Church.

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