In recent days, a man robbed Gigi's Cupcakes using a syringe he said was filled with AIDS-infected blood.
In some ways, says Gigi's owner Carrie Bach, the syringe was "actually more frightening" than if he'd come in wielding a gun. "It was a really creepy weapon to use."
According to Bach, the incident took place about 10:45 a.m. last Thursday at the store's 550 Grant Street location.
"My employees were all in the kitchen when the bell rang," notes Bach, who arrived at the store just after the robbery took place. "We have a kind of blind wall where you can't see who's at the counter until you come around it. And that's when one of the employees saw a man standing in front of her with a syringe full of blood. He said he had AIDS, and the blood was his blood, and he was going to infect her if she didn't open the register."
The employee said she didn't know how to open the register -- a ploy to alert another staffer, who arrived at the counter a moment later. "The syringe was just inches from her body," Bach says. "So she opened the register, and he proceeded to empty the contents. Then he ordered the employees to get in back, where several other employees were hiding behind the ovens."
Shortly thereafter, workers called the cops, and an officer arrived in just four minutes; he'd been at a Qdoba a few doors down when alerted. But by then, the man was already gone. Bach describes him as a forty-ish Caucasian just under six-feet tall whose extremely dark tan and wrinkles suggest to her that he might be homeless. During the robbery, he wore "snowboarding-style clothes: a gray hoodie with black splotches on it. He had a hood over his head, and some facial hair. And he appeared to be on drugs."
The robbery was a first for Gigi's, which opened in May 2010; the worst previous incident involved someone who asked for a job application, then ran off with money from the tip jar. As a result, Bach says, "everyone is a little on edge, a little guarded, which is a natural reaction when something like this happens." To add some reassurance, she invested in security cameras the next day.
Wouldn't a repeat of this crime be unlikely? Perhaps in its specifics -- but Bach sees the robbery as a symptom of a more virulent disease.
"This is really about the broader issue of homelessness and drugs and the transient population," she maintains. "Before the robbery, the man was actually panhandling in our parking lot. And since this happened, I've called the police three times, because we've had panhandlers harassing people in their cars."
Bach believes such panhandlers didn't have to travel far to reach her parking lot. "There are heroin deals going on all the time a block away from the store, down by the river," she says.
"The City of Denver has initiatives for the homeless," she acknowledges. "But I think they need to take another look at them, because nothing's being done to address this situation." As a result, "I honestly feel something like this could happen again."