This story was originally printed in the Daily Post on Thursday, Jan. 3.
An update to this story, printed Saturday, Jan. 5, is at the end.
BY ALLISON LEVITSKY
Daily Post Staff Writer
A Nevada military veteran’s clumsy attempt at vigilante justice in the Palo Alto Safeway parking lot last August led police to arrest him for shooting his Glock into the SUV of an East Bay man who had stolen several crates of alcohol from the store, the shooter’s defense attorney said yesterday.
Christian David Poppe, 37, of Henderson, Nev., was arrested in the East Bay on Aug. 8, five days after he used a black Glock 19 handgun to fire several shots at a white Lexus SUV outside the Midtown Safeway at 2811 Middlefield Road. Four bullet casings were recovered at the scene.
The shooting took place around 9:15 p.m. on Aug. 3, just after Poppe walked out of the store with a load of groceries.
“He thwarted a robbery of the store. He is a decorated veteran and also a security expert, and he saw a crime in progress,” Poppe’s defense attorney David Garland told the Post. “He asked the person to stop. That person assaulted him with their vehicle, struck him, and he shot at them in self-defense.”
After Poppe was tracked down in Danville and arrested, he told the Palo Alto police that after leaving the store, he confronted a man who had stolen several crates of alcohol.
Police identified the man Poppe shot at as Dominik Oshay Cash, 25, of Oakley. Other shoppers told police that Cash looked like a “tweaker” and smelled like marijuana.
‘Prolific alcohol thief’
Belmont police Officer Mike Cecchi told the Palo Alto police that Cash is a “prolific alcohol thief” known to walk out of Bay Area Safeway stores with hundreds of dollars worth of booze. In May, he was charged with stealing dozens of bottles of distilled spirits and champagne from two Safeway stores in Mountain View.
Cash has also been accused in similar thefts in Belmont and Mill Valley. Warrants have been issued for possession of a stolen vehicle by the East Bay city of Pittsburg and San Mateo County.
He posted $10,000 bail in the Mountain View case on Aug. 22. A judge issued a $20,000 bench warrant for his arrest after he didn’t show up for court on Dec. 18.
A Safeway employee identified by police as Rick W. told police that he saw Cash walking out with liquor but didn’t confront him because the company’s policy prohibits employees from confronting shoplifters.
Poppe, a divorced father of two teenagers, told police that he saw Cash leave the store with two crates of alcohol, walk back in and steal more. The back hatch of Cash’s SUV was open, and Poppe said it was full of liquor bottles.
Poppe, who is 6 foot 3 and 205 pounds, told police that he confronted Cash and told him he needed to pay for the alcohol.
Cash had gotten into the passenger seat. A woman was behind the wheel.
Poppe said he stood in front of the SUV and told them to stop. The SUV lunged forward, hitting Poppe and knocking him backward, he told police.
Poppe said he pulled out his gun, at which point the woman “floored it” and “tried to run me over.” He told police that he fired his gun at the front windshield.
“Poppe said that the first time they hit him he drew his weapon, and then he fired when she tried to hit him again,” police Detective Anjanette Holler wrote in an Aug. 21 report.
According to Poppe, the middle of the SUV bumper hit him on his hip and right side. He rolled off the driver’s side hood of the SUV as it hit him, but he caught himself from falling to the ground.
“My whole body is sore,” Poppe told police in August, but said he didn’t have any bruises and didn’t go to the doctor.
After the SUV sped off, Poppe said he walked to the front of the store and talked to the store manager and other people standing there, including shoppers who were asking what had happened.
A witness identified as Mark G. told police that he heard Poppe say, “That guy tried to hit me.”
Witness saw sparks from the gun
A woman identified as Galater D. saw the orange sparks shoot out of the gun from across the street at Chase Bank. She said she ducked down in fear when she heard the gunshots and that Poppe looked “very calm” from where she stood.
Another witness named Kala M. said she saw the shooter hold his hands outstretched in front of him. At first, one hand was open as if to say “Don’t hit me,” she told police.
A witness identified by police as Ellen Wallau said she had talked with Poppe in the checkout line. She left the store moments after the shooting and described Poppe as looking “stunned,” as though he were still processing what just happened.
Wallau asked him what happened, and Poppe said something like “I thought I could catch him or chase him,” Wallau told police.
“That was stupid,” Wallau chided Poppe as they both walked toward their cars. “Didn’t your mother ever teach you to walk away from trouble, not start it?”
Later, Poppe told police that he regretted the shooting.
“At the time I felt it was justified and it was right, and now I just feel really stupid, and I wish none of this ever happened,” Poppe told Holler. “But I feel like if I was a police officer, a police officer would have done the same thing.”
Councilwoman-to-be heard shots
Several people who heard the gunshots called them in to police. One of the callers was Alison Cormack, who at the time was running for City Council and has since been elected. Cormack was driving down Middlefield Road after getting ice cream at Town & Country Village Shopping Center.
“We definitely heard very loud sounds,” Cormack said. “It took us a moment to process.”
Holler asked Poppe why he hadn’t waited for police to arrive, to which he responded that nothing like that had ever happened before.
“He said he became ‘nervous’ and ‘a little bit scared’ and ‘unsure,’” Holler wrote.
Poppe said he called his friend who is an air marshal to ask for advice on how to proceed with police, and then drove back toward Safeway from his friend’s house where he was staying.
“When he saw all of the police cars and lights, he turned around and left the area,” Holler wrote.
After that, Poppe drove to the home of a woman he was “kind of seeing,” Holler wrote.
Gun purchased in Nevada
Poppe told Holler that he has a degree in security management and bought the Glock for an executive protection training class. He told police that he bought the gun in Nevada, where under the state’s laws it became registered to him after clearing the background check.
Poppe told police his Florida permit to carry a concealed weapon had been stolen along with his wallet. He said he didn’t intend to shoot someone for shoplifting alcohol, but did so because they were using their car to hurt him and he felt it was justified.
He told Holler that he had never fired his gun at anyone before, despite having been shot at in the military and while shooting for fun with a friend. Poppe said he takes testosterone injections for a shoulder injury, but denied that the drug affects him mentally.
If convicted, Poppe faces state prison time for willful discharge of a firearm with gross negligence, shooting at an occupied vehicle, assault with a deadly weapon and carrying a concealed firearm. He was released on $100,000 bail on Aug. 13.
After he didn’t show up to a court date on Sept. 10 — which Garland blamed on a clerical error by the court — a judge issued a bench warrant, and Poppe posted $100,000 bail again on Oct. 9. Poppe has not entered a plea.
Alleged alcohol thief and his driver are off hook in bizarre shooting
BY ALLISON LEVITSKY
Daily Post Staff Writer
A man and woman accused of intentionally hitting a man with their SUV and leading the Palo Alto police on a high-speed chase after an alleged alcohol theft from the Midtown Safeway are not facing any criminal charges, according to authorities.
But police and prosecutors haven’t said why they haven’t charged the duo, who a shopper shot at several times after they allegedly hit him with the white Lexus SUV after 9 p.m. on Aug. 3.
Dominik Oshay Cash, 25, of Oakley, was identified in court records as the man who police chased at high speeds after the shooting, and who witnesses said had stolen several crates of alcohol from Safeway before the shooting. The woman driving the SUV hasn’t been publicly identified.
According to court files, Cash was booked into Santa Clara County Jail within weeks after the shooting in relation to a prior alcohol shoplifting case at two Mountain View Safeway stores. He had been identified by the Palo Alto police as the shooting victim at that point, but he was released on $10,000 bail on Aug. 22.
Santa Clara County Deputy District Attorney Paola Estanislao said that the only person who has been charged with a crime in relation to the case is the shooter: Christian David Poppe, 37, of Henderson, Nev.
Poppe is facing possible state prison time for three felonies and a misdemeanor: willful discharge of a firearm with gross negligence, shooting at an occupied vehicle, assault with a deadly weapon and carrying a concealed firearm.
Estanislao said the police didn’t submit the Safeway theft to prosecutors for a review of charges against Cash. She didn’t say whether police had forwarded other charges against Cash to prosecutors.
Palo Alto police spokeswoman Janine de la Vega only said that no one else was facing charges and that the case was “in the hands of the District Attorney.”
After Poppe was arrested in Danville on Aug. 8, he told the Palo Alto police that he had shot into the SUV because, after he told Cash that he needed to pay for the alcohol, the woman driving the SUV had rammed the car into him.
Poppe then fired his black Glock 19 handgun at least four times, shattering a window of the SUV.
The SUV peeled out of the parking lot and police chased it onto Highway 101 before ending the pursuit because, they said, the alleged shoplifters were driving erratically.
The next day, a Belmont police officer told the Palo Alto police that the shooting victim they were seeking was Cash, a “prolific alcohol thief” who had been accused of stealing booze at stores throughout the Bay Area, including Mountain View, Belmont and Mill Valley.
He’s also been sought for alleged possession of stolen vehicles in Pittsburg and San Mateo County, according to court records.
Santa Clara County prosecutors didn’t return a request for comment, but San Mateo County District Attorney said there’s a slew of criminal charges that could potentially be filed against Cash and the driver, including assault for allegedly hitting Poppe with the SUV.
“At a minimum you’ve got a (penal code) 2200.2, which is the felony evading,” Wagstaffe said.
Wagstaffe offered one possibility for why Santa Clara County prosecutors aren’t filing charges.
If one or both suspects is on parole or probation, prosecutors will sometimes file a probation or parole violation, which can keep the suspect or suspects in jail without bail.
That gives prosecutors a chance to continue investigating, such as breaking down the suspects’ cellphones for evidence.
But that doesn’t appear to be the goal of prosecutors, who haven’t filed any charges against Cash. Estanislao said on Wednesday that she didn’t know whether Cash was in custody.
On Dec. 18, a judge issued a $20,000 bench warrant after Cash didn’t show up to court in the Mountain View shoplifting case, according to court records.
He’s facing charges of petty theft, resisting police, reckless driving and driving on a suspended license in that case.