How a Seattle pizzeria manager turned suspected car thief into an employee

Dec 1, 2023, 2:43 PM | Updated: Dec 2, 2023, 11:23 am

A pizzeria in Seattle’s Columbia City neighborhood has been the victim of several car break-ins, with both the staff and the restaurant’s customers experiencing theft. Now the manager has shared with The Gee and Ursula Show how he solved this specific crime spree — by getting the suspected car thief a job.

“It was to the point where we had several employees who had their cars broken into not once, but twice or three times,” Jordan Mullner told The Gee and Ursula Show. “So as I went out to check the cars for the team, I noticed that there was someone peering into a car. And he got pretty startled by my appearance. The exchange was heated at first when I asked him what he was doing, if I could help them at all because he was peering into my car. He got a little threatening, got a little upset.”

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Seattle Police eventually had to intervene, questioning the suspect while also warning Mullner that it seemed he was carrying a weapon in his pocket. Failing to have probable cause though, the police officers were unable to search him.

“At that point, I’m just worried about retaliation. I want my staff to feel safe. I feel like they’re part of my family,” Mullner said. “[Mostly] everyone has kids in my restaurant. I need to protect and take care of them. So when the officers asked me what to do, I was kind of at a loss going ‘ isn’t this law enforcement’s job to take care of these things?’

“But after continuing the conversation with the officer, he mentioned that the young man kept saying that he just wanted a job. That’s all he needed was a job,” Mullner continued. “So at that point, I see an opportunity to de-escalate the situation by giving them a viable alternative.”

That opportunity was a job offer after bringing him into the restaurant for an interview.

“I like to think of second chances in life,” Mullner said. “You know, not everybody gets a chance to tell their story or gets a fair shake in life.”

It was revealed in the interview process that the now-former car thief fell into the world of drugs and began stealing from his mother to feed the addiction. He ultimately was kicked out of his home.

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“She kicked him out of the house and pretty much disowned him,” Mullner said. “At that point, he was on the streets and breaking into cars, just to try and steal backpacks and laptops for money for food and stuff. Once I heard all of that, I realized that we were kind of at a stopping point. I wasn’t going to be able to hire him, obviously, without some form of ID.”

The Seattle Human Services Department (HSD) was contacted by Mullner, who began setting up the paperwork for the young man to be able to be hired with proper identification.

While offered a job at Tutta Bella, the pizzeria Mullner runs, in Columbia City, the former thief took another job in Interbay with the help and assistance from both HSD and Mullner himself.

“We hadn’t had any break-ins after that for some time. And we didn’t hear or think another thing of it,” Muller said. “It was about six months later, I was in my office and was told that someone was here to see me and they didn’t want to tell me who it was. When I went downstairs, it was the same young man, and he was just all smiles. He had a brand new ID, a social security card and a name badge for his job. He just came all the way from the Interbay, bussed back over here to thank me and said he had gotten his IDs that have taken a long time. It was a lot of work. But they were able to get him IDs and then he got a job. He took that information back to his mother and then was able to rekindle the relationship with his mom.

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“He was just very proud to say that he had gotten his life back on track,” Mullner added. “And that’s what I love about Columbia City. It’s a very community-driven area. You really feel it on the streets. People are really looking out for each other and getting to know one another.”

Listen to Gee Scott and Ursula Reutin weekday mornings from 9 a.m. – 12 p.m. on KIRO Newsradio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

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