In what was a proud day for law enforcement and 43-year-old men everywhere, a San Francisco high school principal on Thursday ran down a suspected iPad thief, pulling the culprit down from a fence as he tried to escape.
Students at St. Ignatius College Preparatory in the Outer Sunset had suffered a wave of theft involving school-issued iPads, with dozens disappearing over the last few weeks. Administrators had a description of a suspect – a man seen hanging around campus when the thefts happened – but hadn’t been able to catch him.
Dean of Students Bill Gotch was making his usual rounds through the campus around 3:45PM on Thursday when he caught sight of a man matching the suspects description and stopped him to talk.
Even though the suspect fit the part of a student – He was even carrying a copy of Lord of the Flies in his hand, he came up short when quizzed about the school he attended, and what he was doing on the campus grounds. Gotch and school principal Patrick Ruff questioned the man further in Gotch’s office, and then informed him they were going to notify the police.
That’s when the suspect made a break for it, running out of the door and across the school’s track, making a beeline for an iron fence. Ruff, 43, took off after the suspect, and caught up with him just as he was climbing the fence.Ruff pulled him down from the fence School security guards then helped detain the suspect, identified as 27-year-old Gabriel Ruiz Vega of South San Francisco, until police arrived.
Vega was then booked on suspicion of committing burglary, possessing stolen property and violating the terms of his probation in an earlier grand theft case, said police spokesman Officer Gordon Shyy. Seven iPads and a wallet belonging to St. Ignatius students in Ruiz Vega’s bag, Gotch said.
“We’re hopeful we’re going to recover more,” Ruff said. “We’re thrilled we found this guy. And everyone helped – the dean, security, administrators. I just happened to be the runner.”
Students were both amused and impressed when they found out their principal was willing to run after a guy who was making a run for it with their iPads in tow.
“At first when I saw it on Facebook, I thought it was a joke,” said Lizzie McCaffrey, 15, a freshman. “I think it’s pretty cool Mr. Ruff would stand up for his students like that and save the day, almost.”
One post on a Facebook group page summed it all up with this “gem”: “If you’re going to steal iPads from S.I., you’re going to get ruffed up.”