Citizens help chase down & apprehend Hemet purse snatcher

HEMET — Citizens are being credited with chasing down and helping detain an alleged purse snatcher this morning, Thursday, Dec. 20. According to numerous witnesses, the man reportedly went into a vehicle as it was being refueled at a Hemet gas station and stole a woman’s purse that was inside the cab of the truck.

The incident began at Super 8 on the 200 block of N. State St., northeast of Latham Ave., and ended a short distance away, near Miller & Sons Carpet One; where officers apprehended the man after he broke free from the grasp of good Samaritans who had initially detained the alleged suspect for responding officers.


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This morning’s incident began about 10:15 a.m., when a City of Hemet police officer was flagged down by a person who reported the purse snatch. Officers quickly learned customers from the gas station and other citizens who heard the commotion had followed the alleged suspect, at first chasing and detaining him as he fled northbound on State St. away from the gas station.

Nearly a dozen officers converged on the scene of an alleged purse snatching this morning. Gary Rainwater photo

Based on the circumstances, officers from around the city flooded into the area and were quickly able to locate the alleged suspect. Official radio traffic at the time indicated the man resisted arrest and had to be physically subdued before being taken into custody.

After apprehending the alleged thief, officers searched the area for the purloined purse, eventually locating it and returning it to its grateful owner.

Investigating officers later learned a woman had been refueling a U-Haul rental van when the man opened the door of the vehicle, reached in, and snagged the victim’s purse before trying to flee the area. Although citizens initially chased and detained the man, he managed to break free and attempted to make a run for freedom, before officers eventually nabbed him.

Long-time Hemet resident James Halpert, who was at the gas station when the victim’s purse was grabbed, later told RCNS that even though he is wheelchair bound and was not able to help chase or apprehend the alleged suspect, he was glad to see that others who witnessed the incident did step in to help the victim.

“We’re sick and damned tired of all the crime in Hemet and it’s no surprise people are starting to take matters into their own hands,” Halpert explained. “Our local cops do a great job, but they can’t be everywhere at all times. It’s up to us, the good people who live here, to take back our own city, one thug at a time.”

“Look at what just happened in Temecula,” Halpert continued – referring to a retired Marine who engaged two home intruders in a fierce gun battle inside his own home, injuring one. “Maybe if everyone was allowed to be armed and carry a gun with them – at all times, and not just inside their own homes –  this nonsense would stop; because the criminals would never know who was packing heat.”

“But, this is California we’re talking about,” Halpert lamented. “So, fat chance of that ever happening.”

Hemet PD has not yet released the suspect’s name or any information regarding this incident and their investigation, which is ongoing.

Click any image to open full-size gallery.

Gary Rainwater video

Contact the writer:

Trevor Montgomery, 47, moved last year to the Intermountain area of Shasta County from Riverside County and runs Riverside County News Source and Shasta County News Source. Additionally, he writes for several other news organizations; including Riverside County based newspapers, Valley News, The Valley Chronicle, and Anza Valley Outlook; as well as Bonsall/Fallbrook Village News in San Diego County and Mountain Echo in Shasta County.

Trevor spent 10 years in the U.S. Army as an Orthopedic Specialist before joining the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department in 1998. He was medically retired after losing his leg, breaking his back, and suffering both spinal cord and brain injuries in an off-duty accident. (Click here to see segment of Discovery Channel documentary of Trevor’s accident.)

During his time with the sheriff’s department, Trevor worked at several different stations; including Robert Presley Detention Center, Southwest Station in Temecula, Hemet/Valle Vista Station, Ben Clark Public Safety Training Center, and Lake Elsinore Station; along with other locations.

Trevor’s assignments included Corrections, Patrol, DUI Enforcement, Boat and Personal Water-Craft based Lake Patrol, Off-Road Vehicle Enforcement, Problem Oriented Policing Team, and Personnel/Background Investigations. He finished his career while working as a Sex Crimes and Child Abuse Investigator and was a court-designated expert in child abuse and child sex-related crimes.

Trevor has been married for more than 28 years and was a foster parent to more than 60 children over 13 years. He is now an adoptive parent and his “fluid family” includes 13 children and 15 – but soon to be 16 – grandchildren.


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