SF Superior Court

SF robbery spree ended by quick-thinking victim, court hears

A man who robbed six women in three gunpoint holdups in the Mission and SOMA districts had his crime spree brought to an abrupt end thanks to a quick-thinking victim’s use of the ‘find my iPhone’ feature on her stolen device to guide police to the perpetrator’s location, a court has heard.

Gerardo Saavedra, 24, robbed the late night partygoers – including a pair of city visitors who were walking to a nightclub – in a two hour stint in the early morning of Saturday September 9.

At the conclusion of a preliminary hearing today San Francisco Superior Court Judge Michael Rhoads held the defendant to answer on multiple counts of second degree robbery and receiving stolen property, plus one count of carrying a concealed firearm. He now faces trial.

Saavedra’s robberies began just before midnight with two tourists who were walking from the Intercontinental Hotel on Howard Street to a nearby nightclub. The court heard the women were taking a video of city sights on a cellphone when he approached, “racked” a semi-automatic pistol and told them to “give me your shit.”

By 1:00am Saavedra had struck again, this time on Valencia Street where he accosted two young women walking with friends between 18th and 19th streets while they enjoyed a night on the town.

“I was approached by a man, he cut through our group straight to me, I heard the click of a gun,” one of the Valencia Street victims testified. “Eventually, out of fear, I gave him my bag that I was carrying.”

At around 1:30am Saavedra held up two more women who were walking on Mission Street near the Yerba Buena Center while looking for a place to eat.  Approaching from the opposite side of the street, he unzipped his jacket, pulled out a semi-automatic pistol and forced the women to hand over their cellphones and a purse.

Police were able to hunt down Saavedra’s vehicle in real time thanks to one victim who had headed to a nearby apartment building for help, contacted her sister and had her track her stolen device using the ‘find my iPhone’ feature. SFPD Sgt. Anthony Pedroza told the court he arrived on the scene and relayed an emergency broadcast to other officers using the live location data he was being fed.

Shortly thereafter, he said, a suspect vehicle – a Toyota Corolla – was located and police undertook a “high risk” stop. Saavedra was driving, accompanied by a female passenger.

An inspection of the vehicle uncovered a Polymer 80 semi-automatic ‘ghost gun’, without a magazine, on the Corolla’s rear floor. A magazine loaded with 9mm ammunition was found in a blue and white jacket also in the car. Stolen purses, handbags and cellphones were also scattered throughout.

The woman passenger told police that she had been dropped off by Saavedra earlier in the evening at The Valencia Room bar in the Mission. When he picked her up again, less than two hours later, she said that she noticed handbags and other belongings in the car that were not hers. The pair were en route to the Temple nightclub on Howard Street when they were stopped by police

It appears that Saavedra committed the robberies having had time on his hands between dropping off and picking up his acquaintance.

Pointing to the “strong circumstantial evidence” in the case, Judge Michael Rhoads concluded that “the People have presented satisfactory evidence to support the belief” that Saavedra committed the crimes described in nine counts. The judge ordered three other counts to be dismissed.

Rhoads ordered the defendant to appear for instruction and arraignment in Department 22 of San Francisco Superior Court on October 12 at 9:00am before Presiding Judge Rochelle East.

Saavedra, whose criminal history includes arrests for reckless driving, racing, evading police and shoplifting, was ordered held in custody without bail.

The case continues.

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