By Arthur R. Vinsel
An Old West byword of the 1800s was, “There’s no law west of the Pecos.” But in San Pedro — east of Western Avenue in the Park Plaza Center — grocery checker Terry Meyers is a force to be reckoned with.
Meyers helped police put felons in prison in three cases in recent years, while ringing up Greek olives, imported cheeses and Brussels sprouts at Sprouts Farmers Market.
“My family loves my cops and robbers stories,” says the San Pedro native.
The mother to five — age 24 to 10 — started working at the store at age 15 when it was a Vons, bagging groceries and chasing carts.
Most recently she foiled theft of a wallet by four pukes and scumbags in a fancy white dual cab pickup truck hiked up in the rear, the kind of gas-guzzler favored by young men with more testosterone than good sense.
I can call them pukes and scumbags because it was my wallet.
Meyers was returning from lunch, April 11 when honking horns caught her attention as the truck braked sharply and the four passengers began yelling: “Get it! Get it! Get it!”
“I saw a wallet lying right in the store doorway,” said Meyer. “The guy in the shotgun seat was already out and got to it before I could.”
She is a ‘Pedro girl and she is not small.
“I said ‘I’ll take that,’ and reached out,” Meyers recounted.
For the record, Meyer notes that the city’s ordinance designates 5 feet out from a business’ door is still part of its property. So my wallet was legally dropped inside the Sprouts market. Finders-keepers did not apply.
He took a couple of steps back and stammered that they would check the personal ID inside and definitely return it to the owner. (And pigs will fly!)
“No, we we’ll take it and lock it in our safe and notify the owner,” Meyers recalled. She noticed the would-be thief looking back to his friends for a signal to run to the truck with the wallet.
Meyers, reenacting the exchange between herself and the thief, said: “Give me the wallet, please.”
Then he wheedled, “But, it’s got money in it!”
“I didn’t even think about it. I just snatched it away from him,” Meyers said. Then she said, ‘Thank you, and went into the store.
Meyers noted that they weren’t laughing as they were before. She overheard one ask if she got their license number.
I returned momentarily — a careless reporter who missed all the excitement — but a teenaged grocery bagger Jeanette Campos filled me in.
“You should have seen Tammy. She’s so cool.”
Several years ago, a kidnap report of a man abducting a girl, 15, cutting through Peck Park behind Sprouts on her way to school led Meyer to look at a security surveillance camera tape and — sure enough — saw the suspect’s license number. The truck was pulled over in Redondo Beach and the girl rescued.
“I was getting off work one night when I heard a huge crash. Two guys rammed a pickup into the glass-fronted Radio Shack across the parking lot. I got their license plate while they were throwing electronics into the truck bed. But they drove off.”
Police traced the plate to a house where they found stolen goods, including guns and a bullet-proof vest stolen in the burglary of a local police officer’s home a few weeks before.
And a couple of Christmas seasons ago a woman came in with $400 worth of cosmetics, vitamins and other goods she supposedly bought in our store. She had a receipt and she wanted cash refunds.
“None of the names of the sales clerks who’d sold them matched up with anyone who works here,” Meyers said. “She ended up in prison too.”
“I don’t know what work duties they are assigned for pay there, but every month we still get a $20 crime restitution check from her.”