Franjo Vernic is handy with the tools, but no one is mistaking him for Usain Bolt. The contractor is sporting a bulky cast on his left arm after trying to chase down an accused burglar.
He's working a job in a home on the Vallejo steps that, in his words "has been a target for fuckin' thieves since the beginning." They haven't been taking expensive things, but Vernic almost seems insulted by this: "They don't steal tools." Vernic's co-worker claims a particular visitor made off with "a leather jacket, a pair of brand-new tennis shoes, and a six-pack of beer -- but he didn't take any tools." Vernic shrugs.
But Vernic didn't shrug when he wandered down the stairs on Nov. 9 and found this gentleman inside the home, apparently returning for the ratty old shoes he'd left when allegedly purloining the new pair. "I recognized him and asked him what he was doing here. And he said, at [nearly] 4 o'clock on a Friday, that he was looking for work."
And then he was running away from work -- and Vernic.
The burly contractor gave chase, but "I fucking tripped on the uneven sidewalk, pitched my face into the concrete, and broke my hand."
Vernic was helped out, however, by a neighbor -- who also happened to be a jogger. The neighbor kept pace with the interloper, phoning the cops to offer play-by-play of where he was running. The police were waiting for the alleged thief by the time he made it to Pier 23.
Police spokesman Officer Carlos Manfredi said the suspect was detained and subsequently released. He wasn't cited, but an arrest warrant may be generated in the future if the homeowner or other aggrieved party comes forward to press charges. Vernic did not press charges at the time, heading to the hospital after giving police his statement.
The contractor is swinging a hammer exclusively with his right hand these days. And he's thinking about putting in a surveillance system on the site, as a long-distance running, cell-phone-wielding neighbor may not be handy next time.