Police are seeking two men who allegedly assaulted a man and stole his cellphone early Saturday morning in a downtown Palo Alto parking lot.
At 1:55 a.m., a man in his 20s flagged down a patrol officer on the 200 block of University Avenue, and said he had been robbed at a parking lot at 529 Emerson St., police said.
After an investigation, officers determined the victim had been walking through the parking lot when he saw two men next to a parked silver, newer model Toyota Camry.
One of the men asked the victim for a cigarette. When the victim agreed and went to hand him a cigarette, the man suddenly began punching the victim in the head and demanding his property, according to police.
The victim yelled out and the other suspect placed his hands around the victim's neck, in an attempt to quiet him. The victim noticed a third person was sitting inside the Camry but did not participate, police said.
"He began screaming for help at which point the suspect grabbed him in a headlock to prevent him from yelling for help..." said Marco Estrada of the Palo Alto Police Department.
The victim was eventually able to break free from the suspects and ran into a nearby business for help, before realizing the suspects had taken his cellphone.
The victim suffered abrasions to his neck and scratches. Emergency crews treated and released him at the scene, according to police.
Residents nearby expressed concern about the attack in what they say is escalating instances of violence.
"It's just unfortunate how much I have seen this happen..." said Ellen Ford of Palo Alto. "It's more surprising to see it around here."
A spokesperson for the police department said they have not seen a spike in these instances, but officers are cautioning people to be aware of their surroundings.
Cody Cotello, another resident of Palo Alto, said he tries to stay alert.
"I try.to, but you can't always," he said. "You never know who is out there."
The first suspect is described as a Hispanic man in his 20s, about 5 feet 9 inches tall, with a medium build and a full beard. He was wearing a brown plaid beanie, a brown plaid jacket and blue jeans.
The second suspect is described as a Hispanic man in his 20s, about 6 feet tall with a thin build and unshaven. He was wearing brown clothing, police said.
Anyone with information about the incident is asked to contact police at (650) 329-2413. Anonymous tips can be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org or sent by text or voicemail to (650) 383-8984.