Rebecca Brand took photos on the night a window was shattered at Rudy’s restaurant
A rock was thrown on Christmas Eve and shattered the entire front window of Rudy’s, a Mexican restaurant at 3613½ State St. in Santa Barbara.
Rebecca Brand, a Santa Barbara resident, was a witness to the incident, which took place shortly before 8 p.m. Ms. Brand told the News-Press she saw the window shatter in front of her after the rock was thrown. She also said she saw a transient woman and a man standing at that moment. She said the same woman seized Ms. Brand’s cell phone and later assaulted Ms. Brand with the phone.
The transient is Nelly Gackowska, 61, according to the Santa Barbara County District Attorney’s Office. Ms. Gackowska has been charged with two felonies in the Rudy’s restaurant incident: second-degree robbery and grand theft from a person.
Ms. Brand told the News-Press that the police failed to include the assault in their report “and to me that is the worst part.”
An assault charge was not filed.
Ms. Brand took photos of the broken window and the suspect, and she obtained a video that includes an audio recording of what was said at the scene. Ms. Brand posted the video on Facebook.
Preliminary court appearances in Ms. Gackowska’s case are scheduled for Jan. 9 and 10, according to the District Attorney’s Office.
In an exclusive News-Press interview, Ms. Brand described what she saw Ms. Gackowska allegedly do on Christmas Eve.
“I was leaving the Tee-Off Restaurant and Lounge in Ontare Plaza on Christmas Eve,” Ms. Brand said. “I was walking to my car, and a friend was walking with me. About five feet from my car, I heard a bang and a really loud crash, and glass fell in front of my face down by my feet as the entire window of Rudy’s shattered right before me.
“I yelled ‘What the hell? What the hell?’ I was frightened when the glass came down. It was like a curtain of glass shattered in front of my eyes.
“I instantly took pictures of the woman and the man who were standing at the scene,” Ms. Brand said. “The man appeared to be laughing and smiling.
“I took pictures of the shattered glass,” said Ms. Brand, who described the woman — Ms. Gackowska — as a transient.
Ms. Brand continued to describe the incident.
“I called 9-1-1, and they answered on the second ring,” she said.
“Nelly was screaming at me, ‘You are going to go to prison!’ ” Ms. Brand said.
“She came at me and tried to get my phone out of my right hand and started slamming my phone on my right hip, and got the phone out of my hand.
“She grabbed my phone and started to run with it. I ran to get my phone back,” Ms. Brand said. “I caught up with her halfway through the parking lot. I got my phone with one of my hands and was hanging on to it tightly, and she started hitting me again with my phone.
“She then pushed me to the ground. I got up and said to her, ‘I have a tracker on my phone, and I will find you.’ She ran into the Sun Sushi restaurant and locked the glass door. She started screaming, ‘There’s a mad woman out there. She’s crazy.’
“I knocked on the door, and a worker came to the door,” Ms. Brand said. “I told the worker, ‘A woman just stole my phone, and she is inside.’ The worker told me, ‘She threw it on the counter as she entered.’
“He told me, ‘I will give you the phone if you can unlock it. Then I will know it is your phone.’ I was able to unlock my phone (only) on the second try because I was so flustered.
“I told the worker: ‘Please call 9-1-1. Please call 9–11,’ and he said: ‘She’s (Nelly) already on (a different) phone with 9-1-1.’ The police arrived on scene in under five minutes, and they apprehended Nelly. Then the police spoke with me, and they asked me the value of my cell phone.”
Ms. Brand brought the matter to the attention of the office of Santa Barbara City Councilman Eric Friedman.
“Rudy and his daughter said that someone had been trying to break the door lock for 45 minutes, according to their audio/video file,” Ms. Brand wrote in her letter to Councilman Friedman. The letter was dated Dec. 27.
According to her letter, a representative from the Santa Barbara County Probation Department called Ms. Brand on Dec. 25 about the Rudy’s incident.
“The county representative asked if I would agree to have Nelly released with no bail. I said I did not agree, that Nelly had attacked me, prevented me from continuing my 9-1-1 call, stole my phone, as well as likely broke the window of Rudy’s. In my opinion, she is dangerous.”
Sgt. Ethan Ragsdale, the public information officer for the Santa Barbara Police Department, told the News-Press on Thursday, “The incident was investigated by our patrol officers, and a suspect in the matter was contacted by officers. The case was sent to the District Attorney’s Office for review and potential filing of criminal charges.
“No other information is available at this time,” Sgt. Ragsdale told the News-Press in an email.
Ms. Brand posted her photos and recording at
“Generally if you have video of the crime occuring, it tends to be compelling evidence,” said District Attorney-elect John Savrnoch, who will succeed District Attorney Joyce Dudley on Jan. 4.
“In a lot of cases, we aren’t fortunate enough to have video of the crime,” Mr. Savronch told the News-Press.