St. Clair police zeroing in on purse snatching suspects

CALCUTTA – Social media and a concerned community are being credited by St. Clair Township police Chief Don Hyatt with helping identify three people suspected of targeting a shopper at a local department store, whose purse was snatched Sunday in the parking lot.

According to Hyatt, the elderly woman had exited Walmart, pushing her shopping cart with her purse in the seat area, preparing to load her purchases into her vehicle when a man grabbed the cart, pulling it toward him.

The woman, whose identity was not reported as of Sunday night, grabbed for her purse, but the man ripped it out of her hand and fled to a gold-colored Ford Taurus which left the parking lot.

There was no physical contact with the woman, nor was she injured, Hyatt said.

As part of their investigation, officers viewed video surveillance tapes of the interior of Walmart and found that two men and a woman appeared to have been following the victim throughout the store prior to the purse snatching.

“We believe they targeted her. It’s a crime of opportunity. They’re milling around the store and see this elderly woman. The video shows her leaving the store and one man and the woman getting in the (Taurus) and the other man staying outside the car,” Hyatt said.

Shortly after the incident, officers put an alert on the department’s Facebook page, along with a copy from the surveillance tape of the suspects and a description of the car, and Hyatt said the response from the community was immediate and telling, with numerous posts offering potential identification of the three people.

“There are still a tremendous number of good people in the community who reached out to us on our Facebook page. We asked for help and we had numerous responses,” Hyatt said.

He continued, “I salute these people (who offered information). While it is certainly a troubling time in society, it’s nice to know people want to do the right thing and help out the police.”

Meanwhile, officers checked several locations the suspects are known to hang out, without coming across them, but Hyatt emphasized, “It’s just a matter of time. We’re confident we know who they are. They’d be much better off turning themselves in.”