Police catch employee carrying stolen safe from popular St. Louis cafe

ST. LOUIS, MO — It’s one thing for an employee to steal from a company’s safe. It’s another to steal the safe and run off with it. That’s exactly what happened at Russell’s on Macklind, a popular restaurant on Murdoch Avenue, near Macklind, in south St. Louis. In this case, the worker didn’t get very far, thanks to good police work and luck.

The story begins on a weekend afternoon in May, when Russell’s General Manager Faron Huster received a startling text message from his assistant manager.

“She was asking where the bank is. I assume she was talking about a bank bag for the drawer. I asked her what is she was talking about. She said no - the whole safe is gone,” Huster said.

The restaurant filed a report with the St. Louis Metropolitan Department. As it turns out, the alleged suspect was spotted earlier that morning, at about 3 o’clock.

An officer on patrol came across an unusual sight on nearby Nottingham Avenue.

The café’s dishwasher, Sasha Gardner, was carrying a heavy object.

“I guess he was in the middle of the street or on the sidewalk. And they put on the spotlight. And noticed that he was carrying a safe – which is not the most common thing at 3 am.”

Gardner dropped the safe and took off running.

The 80-pound safe and its contents were returned to Russell’s.

Gardner, however, did not return and was on the lam.

Weeks later, restaurant management received a phone call out of the blue.

“He was out of money and he needed his paycheck,” Huster said.

Huster said Gardner entered Russell’s for what would be his last visit. Police arrested him on the spot.

“They walked in and took him, right here in the dining room. Right during lunch,” he said.

Gardner has since been charged.

Huster said Gardner had worked at the restaurant for a few months and that there were never signs of any problems.

He said he is grateful the case has been closed, and that Gardner was spotted by the officer.

“Tells us we were really lucky. Thankful the police were here in south city. They do a great job patrolling the neighborhood,” he said.