Burglars target Purple Onion twice in last week

Kevin Behr

In the early morning hours of Feb. 15, a burglar tugged open the front door of the Purple Onion Café and walked in, police said.

The suspect took money from the cash register and simply walked back out, according to a police report.

Pat Weinberg, owner of the café located in the 1301 University apartment complex, said the door had not been installed correctly and the lock didn’t work.

“They must have scouted out the situation beforehand,” he said.

The apartment complex security cameras caught the suspect and an accomplice on camera, but identification might be tricky because the suspects wore big jackets, Weinberg said.

Three days later, it happened again.

A burglar walked in through the front door and smashed the register, stealing the money inside, police said.

During the second incident, the thief also pried open the office door and stole the safe, police said.

Weinberg said two suspects pulled up to the back door in a minivan, dragged the safe out and made off with “a lot of money.” The loss shouldn’t affect business much because it’s insured, but he called the theft “a bummer.”

In the past 17 years, the Purple Onion has been broken into at least a dozen times, Weinberg said. He said he isn’t discouraged, but disappointed the heist was so easy.

“It would have been better if they had to work for it more,” he said.

Weinberg said the door has been fixed and he plans to add his own camera and alarm systems to the café.

He said he won’t keep money in a safe anymore; from now on, it’s going straight to the bank.

Police have video surveillance from both incidents and think they might be related, Minneapolis Police Lt. Amelia Huffman said. At this point, however, it has not been concretely determined.

No arrests have been made and the case remains open for further investigation, she said.

BP robbed

A man with a gun robbed the British Petroleum gas station at 1000 University Ave. SE early Wednesday.

Sarah Abraham, a sociology senior, said she was working in the garage when she saw a man inside the store at about 2:10 a.m. When she went up front to help him, the man showed her a gun and demanded all the money in the cash register, she said.

Abraham handed over the cash and the robber ran off, she said.

Huffman said police obtained video surveillance tapes and are currently analyzing them to get a good picture of the robber. She said police might release it to the public later to help catch him.

Abraham said this was the third robbery she’s experienced in three and a half years of work at the gas station.

Her policy is to just give them the money. She said robbers don’t want any more trouble than they are already in, so the money is usually enough to get them to leave.

“I just don’t get scared easily,” she said. “Hopefully, once I graduate, I’ll be in a job where I don’t have to worry about getting robbed.”

‘Just a pipe’

The Minneapolis Bomb Squad was called to Southeast Auto Service repair shop in Prospect Park on Monday morning.

Officers received a report of a “suspicious device” in front of the station on 27th Avenue Southeast, Huffman said.

When the bomb squad arrived, she said the device appeared to be a pipe.

“The bomb squad X-rayed it,” she said. “And it was, indeed, a pipe.”

Officers removed it from the premises, the report said.