Vandal sets off fear of shooting at upscale San Diego steak house

Customers, staff fled Ruth's Chris Steak House
Posted at 5:27 PM, Jan 06, 2020
and last updated 2020-01-06 21:07:43-05

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) -- Harbor Police were searching for a vandal Monday who set off a panic at an upscale steak house along the Embarcadero.

Customers took cover under tables and ran for the exits at Ruth’s Chris Steak House Sunday night when projectiles smashed through at least two of the restaurant’s bay-facing windows.

Someone inside the restaurant shouted “gun,” prompting fears of an active shooter, customers told 10News.

“It was one of the craziest things I’ve ever been through,” said Joey Giacalone, a long-time patron and former co-owner of the Venetian Restaurant in Point Loma. “I mean everyone is diving under tables. It was pandemonium.”

Two bartenders and a manager jumped into action, Giacalone and his wife said, directing guests to take cover and then evacuate the restaurant.

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“There were cooks telling us to come to the back door. They sent us through the kitchen. Because again, no one knew what information was really out there. We thought there was an active shooter,” he said.

“I kept envisioning a gunman coming around the corner to shoot us all,” Juli Giacalone added.

One of the servers working that night survived the Route 91mass shooting in Las Vegas. Ricca Salazar “reacted quickly and ran out the back door with a couple other staff members,” her husband wrote on Facebook.

“She fell and they helped her up,” he said. “Scary night, scary scenario.”

Harbor Police determined someone had thrown rocks through the windows. Investigators believe the unidentified vandal may have been a disgruntled customer who left the restaurant without paying earlier that evening, said Lt. Victor Banuelos.

Joey Giacalone said the man had been acting strangely.

“One guest said he saw him going into the women’s bathroom and said, ‘What the hell are you doing?’ And then he left,” he said.

The Giacalones commended staff members for going “above-and-beyond” during the incident.

“Everyone is panicking and these guys are saying, ‘Forget about me. I have to do my job for this staff and my guests,’” Joey Giacalone said.

Afterward, Juli Giacalone said one of the bartenders approached her with a to-go bag in hand.

“She’s like, ‘Here’s your food!’ Through the whole ordeal of being rushed out and fleeing -- we thought -- for our lives, she had carried our to-go bag through the whole situation.”

Anyone with information on the vandalism should call Port of San Diego Harbor Police at 619-686-6272, Lt. Banuelos said.