Would-be robber of Santa Rosa ice cream shop walked right past group of retired cops

Surveillance video shows the man suspected of attempting to rob a Santa Rosa Baskin-Robbins shop on Wednesday, Aug. 23, 2017. (SANTA ROSA POLICE DEPARTMENT)


It seems that just as a man with a gun was trying to rob a Baskin-Robbins in Santa Rosa at midday Wednesday, a large party of retired law-enforcement commanders, some packing guns, converged at the restaurant right next door.

“Several of us were standing outside and heard and saw the suspect leave the ice cream shop, but were not aware that he was armed and had attempted to rob the store at gunpoint,” says retired Santa Rosa police chief Sal Rosano.

Sal organizes occasional lunches of the retired chiefs, sheriffs, CHP and FBI brass and others who call themselves FLEA — former law enforcement administrators.

Twenty-two of them met at about 11:30 Wednesday morning at Trattoria Cattaneo, located in a strip shopping center on Yulupa Avenue. The place shares a wall with the Baskin-Robbins.

The would-be robber evidently remained calm and quiet when the B-R server pushed shut the cash register drawer just as he reached in for bills, prompting him to hide his gun and walk out, right past the gathering members of FLEA.

And apparently the brave ice-cream scooper, who couldn’t know there were two football teams worth of ex-cops outside the door, didn’t scream or call out for help.

Probably a good thing, given what we can imagine happening had the gunman — now still on the loose and wanted in a Windsor tanning salon robbery — and the retired lawmen mixed it up there in peaceful Bennett Valley.

ACROSS A BREEZEWAY from the Baskin-Robbins and Trattorio Cattaneo is a retail space that long housed Joe Video and is being transformed into a yoga studio. May such a day as Wednesday never shatter the tranquility of Soul Yoga.

Next door to the future studio, on the side opposite the ice cream parlor and Italian restaurant, is Modern Nails.

At about 6:45 p.m. on Wednesday — just over seven hours after the attempted robbery of the Baskin-Robbins — a Lexus crashed through the plate-glass front of the nail salon.

Flying glass injured the woman who owns the business.

Police said the driver of the car, 65-year-old Doris Fechner, had been parked in front of the salon and accidentally pressed the accelerator while reaching for something in the back seat.

With luck the salon will be back in business by the time the yoga studio opens next door.

WHAT’S ONE THING these community organizations and small businesses have in common?

Dry Creek General Store, the Salvation Army, Montgomery High School Foundation, Kid Street Learning Center, Boys & Girls Club of Sonoma Valley, Project Graduation of Cotati-Rohnert Park, Healdsburg Youth Soccer, North Bay Regional Center and Russian River Chamber of Commerce?

All were ripped off by employees or volunteers who seemed like good people until they began to steal money they were trusted to handle or deposit or pay out.

On Sept. 28, the District Attorney’s Office and a panel of experts will tell interested operators of businesses and nonprofits how to avoid becoming a victim of embezzlement.

The program from 9 a.m. to noon at the Boys & Girls Club at 779 Sebastopol Road in Santa Rosa is free, but if you want to attend you’re asked to register by emailing

You can reach Staff Writer Chris Smith at 707-521-5211 or