Puppy stolen in Pinole, owner assaulted

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A Tracy woman who had her puppy snatched from her arms is pleading for its return. 

The man who stole her 3-month-old French Bulldog posed as a potential buyer Monday evening. 

"He came up to me, he shook my hand, he said 'Hi I'm John'," recounted Leesa Riches. 

At his suggestion, they met at the PetSmart Store in Pinole, which Riches regarded as a safe place to rendezvous. 

But in minutes, her brindle puppy, named Emoji, was gone.     

"And I was yelling, 'Help, help he stole my puppy, he stole my puppy,'" Riches told KTVU. 

Emoji was one of seven Frenchies born to a pair Riches owns. Four pups from the litter remain. 
Riches has bred her dogs previously, and sold them among friends or acquaintances. 

This was her first time dealing with a stranger. 

"He's like, 'I really want this puppy, I'm working in Hercules, I'd like to get him today and take him back to Sacramento," Riches recalled.

The man had been texting her all day, and they spoke several times.   

Monday evening, they met and entered the PetSmart store, but no sooner had Riches lifted Emoji up to show the man:

"He kicked me or he kneed me, but somehow my knees got buckled," said Riches, "and I remember trying to hold on with my fingernails as he pulled him away, and grabbed him like a football, and ran out with him."  

Riches' chase was slowed because she was managing two other puppies in a stroller. 

She and others ran after the thief but lost him after he drove away in a new blue Ford Mustang.
Riches cries thinking about how her beloved pup disappeared, and his uncertain welfare now.    

"I want to think he stole him because he wanted him so bad, to love him, but my heart just thinks different," said Riches, "and you breed them because you want them to go to a good family."   

Riches is trying to persuade PetSmart to share its surveillance video of the suspect. 

Pinole police took a report on the theft and the assault, and have viewed the video. 

Riches describes the man as white, possibly bi-racial Asian, in his mid-20's, tall and thin, with dark hair and eyes. He was wearing a hoodie, which may have partially obscured his appearance. 

If Riches could somehow get her puppy back, she says she'd take him with no questions asked. 

"I just want Emoji, I don't care, I won't press charges, if he just gives me Emoji back."

French bulldogs are a breed of the moment, very popular and very expensive.

They sell for $3,000 to $5,000, but are not the sturdiest dogs, and tend to need special care and medication for their health.