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Victim’s purse stolen at gunpoint in garage after trip to store

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Police, fire and ambulance medics responded to an elderly armed robbery victim in the garage of her Manteca home. She was robbed of her purse at gunpoint as she returned home from a grocery shoppi...

GLENN KAHL/The Bulletin

POSTED July 25, 2012 1:12 a.m.

A lone gunman surprised an elderly Manteca woman Tuesday morning and thrust a gun in her face as he yelled, “Give me your purse – give me your purse,” striking her in the shoulder, according to her account of the 11 a.m. robbery.

A native of Hungary, the tiny, 78-year-old woman and her husband had first moved to the Bay Area before locating in Manteca some 15 years ago.  She had a career as a bookkeeper both in her homeland and in the U.S. before her retirement. 

She said she had gone grocery shopping at a store near Yosemite Avenue and Union Road and returned home about half an hour later.  She had driven into the garage of her Treasure Lane home – located north of Wawona Avenue and west of Union Road – where she planned to unload her bags of groceries into the house through the garage access door.

“I didn’t see anyone following me, but I never looked,” she said.  “Do things like this happen in Manteca?”

“It happened so fast,” she said of the robbery. “He pulled the purse out of my hands when I got out of the car.”

She described the weapon as a small hand gun that left her completely terrified.

 “I don’t believe it happened,” she blurted,  “and in daylight!”

The woman said she immediately yelled for her husband – who was in the house as the robber fled toward the street.  The robber scattered the contents of one bag of groceries across the front yard as he ran.   Her husband rushed over to the next door neighbor for help who called police and medics.  The victim was described by her husband as shaking uncontrollably as she picked up the groceries in the driveway as he ran into the garage in answer to her yelling for help.

Police dispatched  canine officer Dale Goforth and his police dog “Gage” to sniff out the suspect’s black baseball cap that he had lost near the sidewalk as he ran northward up the street.  The canine officer gave up the search after walking about three blocks with his dog on a long lead. The thief was described to be a white man about 5-foot-7 and probably in his early 20s.

Medics checked the woman out at the scene but she refused going to an area hospital saying her husband would take her later after she calmed down.  After being in an apparent state of shock from her experience, she claimed that her shoulder hurt badly where the suspect assaulted her in the garage and took her purse.

She said she had some $80 in cash when she returned from the store, but she was more concerned about her driver’s license and other important papers including her check book that were taken.  Her car keys had been routinely dropped into her purse as she had gotten out of her car in the garage, she added.  The keys to the home were also lost in the process. That brought a locksmith to the residence later in the afternoon to change the locks.

It was theorized that the robber may have seen her shopping at the store, and realizing that she appeared to be somewhat frail, followed her home with the intent of robbing her when she entered her home.

A neighbor, Patrick Rodriguez, said he had been in their garage with her husband when she left for the store assessing transmission problems on their second car.  He said he had left to go home about 10 minutes before hearing the police and fire sirens of the first responders who were called to the scene.  He said if he had stayed longer the robbery wouldn’t have happened.

Rodriguez told of a similar incident that occurred to him when he believed a young couple spotted his limp from a work injury and burglarized his car parked outside a Manteca warehouse center.

He said he had noticed a young woman talking on a cell phone behind him in the store, telling someone on the other end of the line that a shopper was busy selecting merchandise and that “it’s ok now.”  The neighbor said he soon realized the woman was a planted lookout for a thief who was burglarizing his car outside in the parking lot.

Anyone with information leading to the arrest and conviction of the armed robbery suspect is urged to contact Crime Stoppers where they can remain anonymous and possibly collect a $1,000 reward.  Crime Stoppers’ telephone number is 823-4636.

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