SAN FRANCISCO - It’s been nearly a month since a man with a red ponytail walked off with a big black suitcase with a unicycle that police say belonged to the Red Panda, a San Francisco acrobat beloved for her balancing bowls and fancy cycling at NBA games across the country.
But late on Wednesday, the TSA granted permission to the San Francisco International Airport to release the full surveillance video to KTVU of the day and act in question.
The video, edited for length, shows many angles of the man at the baggage claim area on Jan. 24 in Terminal 3 by carousel 5. He wheels up to the carousel with a cart that already has a black suitcase on it. He calmly leans down and grabs another black suitcase, which an official close to the investigation said has specific identifying characteristics on it that belong to the Red Panda, whose real name is Rong Niu. He glances to the right. There are three other people in the area at the time. The Red Panda is not in the camera’s view. And then he walks off briskly, but not abnormally fast, with the two suitcases on his cart. The other clips of video obtained by KTVU shows various angles of the man walking outside the terminal on the sidewalk.
The San Francisco airport police and San Mateo County cargo task force have been investigating the case and called the man a thief in an all-points bulletin, though no arrests have been made.
Since the reported theft, the Red Panda has been using a backup unicycle, her agent Patrick Figley said. And at least in the beginning, she was having difficulty on it, often dropping bowls.
After hearing about her situation, the Golden State Warriors announced they would buy her a new, custom-made unicycle, which has an estimated cost of about $30,000. She is a fan favorite at the Warriors' games, as well as basketball games throughout the United States. After KTVU broke the story of the theft, sportscasters and fans alike called for the thief's head.
But as of Thursday, she had not yet received the gift, Figley said. That likely would happen, he said, when the NBA finals are over in early June.