Paul Payne, The Press Democrat (Santa Rosa, California), May 29, 2007
Two Petaluma store employees and a shopping center customer were beaten by reputed gang members, apparently for wearing red clothing, police said Tuesday.
The attacks happened near the Staples office supply store on South McDowell Boulevard, where police said two workers and another person were assaulted.
It was the second attack in Petaluma over colors in two months. In April, a 12-year-old boy was hit on the head with a skateboard after he refused to take off a red shirt.
The three people assaulted at the Washington Square Shopping Center wore red. The Staples employees were dressed in red uniform polo shirts.
None of the victims were gang members, police said.
In one instance, a Staples employee was standing outside the store when the suspects began yelling gang slogans and challenging him to fight, Petaluma Police Sgt. Dave Kahl said.
He started to walk into the store when they began hitting him with their fists, Kahl said.
Another employee came to his aid and also was assaulted, Kahl said.
One victim was 18 and the other was 21.
A third victim, whose age was not available, flagged down an officer in the parking lot and said the two suspects were driving a large, light-colored sedan, Kahl said.
Police stopped the car nearby and witnesses identified the occupants as the suspects, Kahl said.
Both were arrested and booked on suspicion of committing battery for gang purposes, Kahl said.
The male suspect also was held on suspicion of drunken driving, Kahl said.
A Staples spokeswoman said Tuesday it wasn’t the first time an employee was beaten by gang members for wearing the company’s red attire.
The Framingham, Mass.-based company has 190 stores in California and workers clad in Staples’ polo shirts have been assaulted at other stores because the color is claimed by gangs, spokeswoman Amy Shanler said.
In some cases, the company has changed the uniform to prevent further attacks, Shanler said. She wouldn’t say where the company had changed its uniform colors.
“We have changed the uniform before because of the gang situation,” Shanler said. “There hasn’t been anything discussed as far as this situation.”