Some stolen phones dumped after gunpoint robbery at Vancouver cafe, police believe

Click to play video: 'Brazen robbery at Commercial Drive restaurant'
Brazen robbery at Commercial Drive restaurant
Vancouver Police are investigating a disturbing Sunday morning robbery at a popular eatery on Vancouver's Commercial Drive. Julie Nolin reports – Nov 20, 2022

While several cellphones were stolen in a gunpoint robbery at an East Vancouver café on Sunday morning, investigators don’t believe phones were the target of the brazen theft.

According to police, two men with guns barged into the Cafe Du Soleil on Commercial Drive around 11 a.m. in a “takeover-style” robbery and told people to get on the ground.

“They threatened to hurt people, they threatened to shoot people and they robbed people of valuables,” Sgt. Steve Addison told CKNW’s Jill Bennett Show on Monday.

One person sustained non-life-threatening injuries in the holdup, according to police.

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Read more: Patrons at Cafe Du Soleil on Commercial Drive robbed at gunpoint: employee

Addison said there is a “specific investigative reason” for not revealing what else the robbers took from the terrified brunchers, but “valuable items” in the possession of “certain people” were targeted.

Some of the stolen cell phones, however, were “tossed away or dumped” a short distance from the diner and later recovered, police believe.

“So it’s quite likely the phones were taken as an attempt by these criminals to prevent people from immediately calling 911 — all part of the strategy to get away, to delay police attendance,” Addison explained.

Click to play video: 'Brazen robbery at Commercial Drive restaurant'
Brazen robbery at Commercial Drive restaurant

Cafe Du Soleil’s manager told CKNW’s Jas Johal Show on Monday the injured person was a staffer who was “poked” in the back of the head with a gun. He will make a full recovery, the manager added.

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The manager also said he waived everyone’s restaurant tabs after the terrifying incident, but many patrons left cash on the tables anyway. He called it a beautiful contrast “between the horrific act and the generosity of the people sitting doing this wonderful thing.”

Christina Papadatos-Dupont, who was opening the Gatley clothing shop about 200 metres away as the robbery took place, described the incident as “very unsettling.”

“Even just the fact that things felt pretty casual and normal in the store, but something very devastating had happened just half a block down the street … just not feeling as safe going into work,” she told Global News.

“I think it just affects how you think about when you just want to leave your home.”

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Police are searching for two suspects who wore hats, hoodies and gloves to obscure their identities. One suspect reportedly wore a pandemic face mask, said Addison.

Police have not yet recovered the weapons used in the attack.

“We still have a lot of work to do, but I think we have a lot we can work with,” said Addison.

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“We’ve had a tremendous amount of success by releasing videos to the public and having suspects identified. That’s certainly something we’ll look at in this case.”

Click to play video: 'How effective could Eby’s public safety plan be for the province?'
How effective could Eby’s public safety plan be for the province?

More than a dozen staff and customers were “traumatized” by the incident, according to a Monday news release from the Vancouver Police Department.

“Physical injuries aside, the psychological trauma, the emotional trauma — the anxiety that goes along with being victimized in this way — is something that’s going to take a long time to recover from,” said Addison. “This is very much a priority investigation for us.”

Anyone with information on the incident is asked to contact Vancouver police at 604-717-2541.

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