Nation & World

Woman thwarts mugger by faking a seizure — like she saw on ‘Law & Order’

A technique she saw on an episode of “Law & Order” helped a California woman escape being mugged in San Francisco over the weekend. The would-be robber passed the woman a threatening note on a train.
A technique she saw on an episode of “Law & Order” helped a California woman escape being mugged in San Francisco over the weekend. The would-be robber passed the woman a threatening note on a train. Facebook

In the criminal justice system, muggers who threaten people with handwritten notes written in pink marker are considered especially heinous.

In San Francisco, the dedicated residents who challenge these vicious felons are members of an elite squad known as the Special Would-Be Victims Unit. This is one of their stories.

On Saturday afternoon, Julie Dragland says, someone dropped a threatening, handwritten note into her lap while she rode the BART train in San Francisco.

“There are 2 guns pointed at you now. If you want to live hand back your wallet + phone NOW + do not turn around and be descreet,” the misspelled note read.

“Do not turn around until after you have left Civic Center + you will live.”

She told SF Gate she started “freaking out” when she read the note. “I did not want to give up my stuff, but I had no idea who was behind me,” the 32-year-old Oakland woman said.

She didn’t turn around but she did mouth “help me” to a guy standing near her.

He got off the train.

“I was terrified and then I started to be like, is somebody really going to shoot someone for a phone and a wallet? I don’t know. I started to question it a little bit, but I was still really scared,” she told CBS San Francisco.

Then Dragland, who does public relations for a video game company, remembered something she’d seen on TV.

She faked a seizure.

She slumped sideways in her seat and started shaking and crying. She closed her eyes and began to shake harder so people would notice and come to her aid.

“I think it had something to do with watching a lot of ‘Law & Order,’ ” Dragland told SF Gate. “I think I saw that in an episode. I was very impressed with myself.”

It worked.

A couple came to her and asked if she was OK, she told CBS San Francisco. She handed them the note; she later posted a photo of it on her social media.

Dragland thinks the would-be mugger got off at the next stop, Civic Center Station. She told authorities the person sitting behind her was an older white woman dragging a suitcase.

Police reviewed security camera footage from the train, telling local media there were about 15 other people in the train car at the time and no one else reported the incident.

On Monday BART officials released a photo of the suspect — a white woman with blond hair and dark sunglasses dragging a wheeled bag.

“We’ve been reviewing surveillance video and this is our suspect,” BART spokeswoman Alicia Trost tweeted.

suspect
The suspect in a thwarted mugging on a BART train in San Francisco Saturday. BART

BART Deputy Chief Lance Haight told reporters on Monday that in all his years with San Francisco BART he’s never heard of a robbery by note.

Dragland reportedly told police she won’t press charges if they find the suspect.

Sounds like she just wants the whole, not-ripped-from-the-headlines incident behind her.

Lisa Gutierrez: 816-234-4987, @kcstargazing

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