A group described by witnesses as “Gypsies” distracted the owner of No. 1 China Buffet Sunday afternoon and stole cash from the restaurant. (PHIL BULLOCK/The Observer)
Purse containing restaurant money taken Sunday
A group described as “Gypsies” by witnesses distracted the owner of No. 1 China Buffet in order to steal her purse from the restaurant Sunday afternoon.
An unknown group of people — four women and one man — entered the restaurant at about 2:10 p.m. Once they were seated, they started a conversation with the owner, police believe, in an attempt to distract her.
“They were kind of keeping her occupied,” said La Grande Police Chief Brian Harvey.
While talking with them, the owner noticed two people go back into the kitchen area, but by the time the owner was able to get back there, one of the suspects had already left out the back door, taking her purse with them.
While the owner was in the kitchen, the group that had been seated left, according to police.
The group stole the owner’s purse, which contained a significant amount of cash that belonged to the restaurant, Sgt. Gary Bell said.
Police said the case is an unusual one for the area. Harvey noted that witnesses described the group as “Gypsies,” referring to the nomadic ethnic group.
Witnesses at the restaurant described the group as people in their 20s and early 30s, except for one woman who appeared to be in her 60s. They are described as having dark complexions with black hair, except the male who had a blonde streak in his hair, police said. Witnesses said they “spoke with heavy accents” and in a language they could not understand. Witnesses described the group as “dirty” and “Gypsies,” and acting like a team before entering the restaurant.
They left in a blue four-door Nissan.