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VIDEO: El Pollo Grill restaurant workers take down would-be tip jar thief in Chula Vista

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Posted at 5:10 PM, Feb 16, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-25 13:16:52-05

CHULA VISTA (KGTV) -- The staff at the El Pollo Grill in Otay Ranch stopped a would-be thief from walking away with their tip jar, the owner tells ABC 10News.

The incident happened Sunday night inside the restaurant at the Otay Ranch Town Center on Birch Road in east Chula Vista.

Store owner Victor Lopez posted surveillance video on his Facebook showing a male wearing a surgical mask and holding a skateboard casually walking out with a container full of money.

Just as the thief opens the door, he spills a wad of dollars onto the floor. As the male bends down to pick up the cash, a staff member is seeing racing out of the kitchen towards the thief.

Several other EPG workers bolt out of the restaurant to help chase down the thief. Lopez said his staff was able to retrieve the money after tackling the thief a short distance away.

In a playful nod to his courageous employees, Lopez warns potential thieves about hitting up his eatery.

“Dont drop the tip money upon leaving the establishment you just took it from and dont come to EPG OTAY RANCH cuz we have some down azz vatos as cooks,” he wrote on Facebook.

He acknowledged that what his workers did was brave but he isn't ignoring the danger that comes with confronting thieves. He advised his workers not to get physical with criminals.

"You don't know if these guys are going to have [weapons], or he could've used his skateboard to defend himself and could've done some serious damage," he said. "Or retaliation, waiting until the end of the shift, especially with the women."

Had the thief made away with the crew's tips, the generous South Bay store owner said he would have replaced their loss in a heartbeat.

"I can't do it without my staff, that's why it's important for them to stay safe," said Lopez. "I told them,'I need you guys here in good health.'"

Lopez told this station that Chula Vista police confirmed the thief in the video is the same person believed to be snatching tip jars from other businesses in the Otay Ranch and Eastlake area, including an L&L Hawaiian BBQ just north of EPG about a mile away.

Anyone with information about the person seen in the video is asked to call the Chula Vista Police Department.