Police believe the suspect hid inside one store Sunday night before closing, then cut his way through the walls of three businesses.
No one was eating fresh Monday morning at a Subway restaurant Harrisburg near S. 69th Street in east Houston. It remained closed after a peculiar run-in.
"I opened the door, smelled a burning smell, checked the usual things that would've been burning, they weren't," said a Subway worker who didn't want to be identified.
This employee normally arrives at 6am, and opens the shop at 7am. But this time, when he walked in, he witnessed something that caused him to slowly back out of the store and call 911.
"I was hearing him sawing away at the safe," the worker recalled.
Houston Police Officer DeLeon said, "This guy did work a while getting into these businesses and doing the damage that he did."
Police say the suspect, a man in his mid-20s, used heavy duty equipment to saw and drill his way through a Payless shoe store, a vacant space, a Subway and into a Melrose clothing store. He made a huge mess and collected thousands of dollars from safes along the way until that employee's 911 call.
"Luckily, we were able to recover the tools used and money was taken from both businesses," Officer DeLeon said.
Police outside Payless was the last thing shopper Miriam Morales expected to see.
"No, I didn't, not this early in the morning," she said.
When we told her what happened, she decided the shopping could wait.
"That's crazy! But I'm just glad no one got hurt, though," Morales said.
Police have not released the suspect's name, but they told us he does not work in any of the stores in the shopping center. He's been charged with burglary of a building.