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Off-duty St. Paul officer stops attempted robbery while out for dinner with family

Morning headlines from June 20, 2024
Morning headlines from June 20, 2024 03:22

ST. PAUL, Minn. — An off-duty St. Paul police officer was having dinner with his family on the east side of the city on Sunday evening when he thwarted a man from stealing the restaurant's tip jar.

According to charging documents, the man grabbed the jar from the counter of Best Steak House. When a staff member tried to grab him to prevent the theft, the alleged thief grabbed a steak knife and raised it above his head.

That's when Jonathan Valencia drew his firearm and, after identifying himself as a St. Paul police officer, told the man to drop the knife. The man let go of the knife immediately, police say. 

Valencia and restaurant staff members held onto the man until an on-duty officer could come and take him into custody.

The 39-year-old man faces two counts of first-degree aggravated robbery. In a post-Miranda interview, the man said he was trying to take the tip jar because he was hungry, and pulled the knife because he thought the staff member was going to hurt him.

The maximum sentence for an aggravated robbery charge is 20 years.

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