Thief pepper sprays employee at St. Paul shop, steals four violins

This man was caught by a security camera stealing four violins, each worth thousands of dollars.

This man was caught by a security camera stealing four violins, each worth thousands of dollars. Fein Violins security footage

On Saturday afternoon, a tall man in glasses walked into Fein Violins in on Grand Avenue in St. Paul. Surveillance footage shows him talking to an employee about the instruments.

It appears to be a pretty normal transaction… until the man takes out an aerosol can and blasts the employee with pepper spray. He grabs four violinsno bows, no casesgets into his car, and drives off.

Owner Andy Fein has run the shop for 37 years, specializing in “modern hand-crafted violins” made from “meticulously cut,” “aged, high altitude spruce,” designed to “spark joy when you hold them and play them.” This is the first time anyone has tried to steal them.

The employee called 911 and police arrived within five minutes. One of the instruments has already been recovered. Someone attempted to sell it at Music Go Round on West Seventh Street later that day. Still, Fein has no idea who the thief could be.

But it’s not that hard to imagine what his motive might have been. When the Pioneer Press inquired after the value of the stolen goods, Fein wouldn’t give a number – only that they were “nice.” He believes one is actually a French antique dating back to 1911. Police say they’re worth thousands of dollars apiece.

Fein is more concerned with the well-being of his employee, whom he calls a “smart, talented, internally strong young woman.” He says she’s physically fine, but “obviously traumatized.” In a Facebook post on Saturday, he said he’d have given the thief a violin if it meant he wouldn’t have hurt anyone.

“What’s the POINT of stealing violins??” One commenter asked. “Every pawn shop will be watching for them, won’t they??”

“Lord,” another said. “I guess I’m thankful it wasn’t a gun.”

On Sunday, Fein added another post thanking everyone for an “outpouring of love and support." He said it all “trumps” the “evil acts” of the day before.

“Oh,” he added. “And Zev the 70-pound shop dog is hanging out today. He’s really nice. Until he’s not.”