The suspect -- who was wearing a bandana over his face, dark jeans and a hooded sweatshirt -- jumped over a counter and caught the only employee in the sandwich shop by surprise.
"She goes down; obviously he is threatening her. She is there by herself fearing for her safety," said Santa Ana Police Cpl. Anthony Bertagna.
The robbery happened around 6:40 a.m. Wednesday on the 2600 block of West Edinger Avenue. After the suspect confronted the female employee, he roughly hauled her to her feet.
"That's when he forcefully picks her up and attempts to take her into a back storage room. He is looking for the safe at that point," said Bertagna.
But the employee told the suspect she didn't know where the safe was located. That's when police say he took out a folding knife, opened it up and threatened to kill her. She complied and led the suspect to the safe.
"You can see he forcefully pushes her around. So is there a chance that he would use that knife? Absolutely, that's what our fear is," said Bertagna.
The suspect emptied the safe and register before leaving. Police say the suspect, while heavily disguised, had on a sweatshirt with the words "So Cali" written on it. He was described as white or Hispanic, 25 to 30 years old, standing between 5 feet 10 inches and 6 feet 1 inch tall and weighing about 175 to 200 pounds.
Investigators believe the suspect may have robbed other locations in the Santa Ana area. Anyone with information was asked to contact Orange County Crime Stoppers at 1-855-847-6227.