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Restaurant Security Cam May Have Captured SF Picasso Thief

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Missing Picasso, suspect

Security camera image from Lefty O’Doul’s restaurant shows man believed to have taken a Picasso drawing (inset) from Weinstein Gallery on 383 Geary St. in San Francisco, July 5, 2011. (Lefty O’Doul’s)

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SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — A well-known San Francisco restaurant might have surveillance video of a thief who walked into a Union Square art gallery on Tuesday morning and walked out with a Picasso drawing worth hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Lefty O’Doul’s restaurant is next door to the main showroom of the Weinstein Gallery, located at the corner of Geary and Powell streets, where the thief took the sketch around 11:40 a.m. Tuesday before getting in a taxicab, according to the gallery and police.

Lefty’s owner Nick Bovis said that when he learned last night that a distinctively dressed man had walked out with a 1965 Picasso sketch called “Tete de Femme,” he checked his tapes and quickly homed in on a suspect.

“We’ve never seen anything like it,” he said.

The footage shows a man in a grayish jacket and light pants walking briskly but casually at 11:39 a.m. away from Weinstein’s and toward the Handlery Hotel, which had a line of taxicabs waiting a few doors down from Lefty’s.

The footage is time-stamped at 12:12 p.m., but Bovis said his camera’s clock is 33 minutes fast.

KCBS’ Anna Duckworth Reports:

The man in the shot is carrying something framed in his left arm and wearing loafers but no socks—a key part of the suspect description obtained by police.

Investigators reviewed the footage this morning but declined to comment on it. Bovis said police downloaded it from his hard drive and planned to use it in their search.

“It appears it could be our suspect,” police spokesman Officer Albie Esparza said. “The description is similar and he’s holding art, obviously, but not until we arrest him can we say that’s the guy we’re looking for.”

Esparza said the Police Department has impounded the cab the suspect rode in and is interviewing the driver and reviewing the cab’s security camera footage.

Bovis said he called the Police Department on Tuesday night and also told the Weinstein Gallery about the Lefty O’Doul’s footage, which only shows the man with the frame for a few seconds.

“Tete de Femme” is about 8 inches by 11 inches, the size of a standard sheet of paper. A spokeswoman for the gallery did not return calls seeking comment.

Bovis said he installed the surveillance cameras a few years ago when someone stole the left arm of the restaurant’s mascot, a mannequin dressed as left-handed pitcher Lefty O’Doul.

“I put up the camera to catch an arm thief and got someone stealing a Picasso,” he said.

Witnesses originally described the thief as a white man about 6 feet tall, between 32 and 35 years old, wearing a dark jacket, light shirt, dark pants, loafers with no socks and large sunglasses, Esparza said.

Anyone with information about the theft is asked to call San Francisco police at (415) 575-4444, text a tip to TIP411, or call 911.

(Copyright 2011 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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