A high school student who allegedly robbed a 38-year-old blind woman in Downtown San Leandro was charged Friday with robbery and abuse against a dependent adult, according to police.
The woman was walking from San Leandro BART to an address on Haas Avenue at about 9:30 a.m. on Wednesday when her white guidance cane came into contact with a person. Before she could react, police said 18-year-old Jujuan Despanie began stealing her iPhone out of her hand.
She tried to fight back by resisting and holding on to her phone, but she lost her balance and fell to the ground. The suspect kept pulling on her phone until it slipped out the victim's grip, police said.
Witnesses responded to the area of Davis and Clarke streets and called 911, and a bicyclist followed the suspect as he ran into the neighborhood. Another witness saw the robbery from a balcony and assisted police in their investigation.
They ultimately located and arrested Despanie, who was hiding between two parked cars a few blocks away. He initially tried to run away from officers and discard evidence of the crime, according to police, who said he's currently a high school student.
An Alameda-Contra Costa Transit bus driver passing Davis Street helped the woman onto his bus and took her back to San Leandro BART station.
She was then able to get help from a BART station attendant, police said.
"People in our community with disabilities are sometimes defenseless and should never be seen as a target for criminals due to their vulnerability," Lt. Isaac Benabou said in a news release. "Rather than to prey on those who cannot protect themselves, we have a moral responsibility as human beings to help one another when in need."
Despanie was charged with two felony offenses in Alameda County court and remains in custody at Santa Rita Jail in Dublin.