The mother of a teenager who was held down by an Omaha bakery owner after a tip jar containing $15 was stolen from her shop wants the owner charged with assault.
The 14-year-old boy and his friend were at the bakery and restaurant Farine + Four, at 3020 Leavenworth St., about 3:30 p.m. Thursday, according to an Omaha police report. While the friend grabbed the tip jar, which contained $15, the other boy was “posing as a lookout,” the report said.
Ellie Pegler, the owner of the business, held down the 14-year-old until officers arrived. The boy is listed in the police report as 4-foot-9 and 90 pounds.
Pegler later posted two photos on her Instagram page. The first was an image of what apparently were her bloodied knuckles with the caption, “I’m tired of teenagers stealing our tip jar. I tackled a kid on leavenworth street in front of a car today. Then I asked him ‘how does it feel to be tackled by a b****?’ ”
The second photo was from the store’s surveillance cameras of Pegler holding the boy against a refrigerator case. The caption on that photo read, “Do not (expletive) with some women bakers.” She then thanked a fellow employee for calling police “while I held a kid down for 20 minutes.”
Pegler did not return multiple messages seeking comment.
The boy was taken into police custody. His mother, Dominique Smith, was contacted. Smith said Monday that police told her that her son wouldn’t identify the other teen and he would be charged with theft in juvenile court because he was involved in the crime.
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Smith said she didn’t know about any altercation until the next day, when her son said his back was hurting because a woman had “put him in a chokehold and slammed him,” she said. She then was alerted to Pegler’s social media posts by a friend.
Smith filed a misdemeanor assault report with the police on Sunday. She said she hopes Pegler will be charged.
“I think she went way above the law,” Smith said, adding that she thinks race may have been a factor because her son is black and Pegler is white. “I just feel like if it was a white kid, she maybe would have cussed him out ... but for her to go above and beyond ...
“You’re chasing kids out in front of traffic. You’re bragging, proud of yourself — all over a tip jar.”
Nebraska law allows reasonable use of force for protection of property under certain circumstances, Omaha police said.
“Generally, OPD recommends that civilians observe and report crimes in progress due to the potentially dangerous nature of physically intervening with a suspect,” the department said in a statement. “OPD would not recommend a civilian put themselves in harm’s way.”
Smith said she also is frustrated that officers didn’t tell her about the altercation between her son and Pegler. Officers watched Pegler’s security video of the incident when they were called to the business, but the Police Department said Monday that no one could comment further.
Omaha City Prosecutor Matt Kuhse, who oversees misdemeanor crimes, said he’s waiting for more police reports and an affidavit from the 14-year-old to see if charges are warranted or if Pegler was justified under Nebraska law.
Smith said she doesn’t condone stealing and doesn’t mind that Pegler called police, but she would have liked to have talked with Pegler in person. She said the situation is uncomfortable because the family lives blocks from the restaurant.
“We have gotten a lot of support from people in the community that are not happy with Ellie, not happy at all,” Smith said.
Mark Vondrasek, who is running for the Nebraska Legislature in District 9, where the store is situated, posted about the altercation on his Facebook page. The post got more than 500 comments and 240 shares.
“This is absolutely the wrong response. Could have easily followed him home,” Vondrasek wrote. “In their outrageous pursuit of ‘justice’ over a few dollars (they) have now brought a young kid into the criminal justice system, changing his life forever.”
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