WASHINGTON CITY – A series of purse snatching incidents throughout St. George over the last two weeks, including an incident where an elderly person was shoved as their purse was stolen, culminated in two arrests Thursday afternoon in the parking lot of a Washington City shopping center.
“St. George Police Department has been investigating a series of parking lot thefts over the last couple of days where a previously unidentified male and female had been approaching people in the parking lots, and, in one of the scenarios, they shoved an elderly person and took their purse off of them and left,” said St. George Police Sgt. Johnny Heppler, who supervises the St. George Police Department’s Fraudulent Identity and Securities Threats unit and gang unit.
There have been a series of similar incidents, Heppler said, where the suspects have stolen or attempted to steal an individual’s purse from them as they were getting into their cars over the last couple of days in St. George.
On Wednesday, a woman leaving the Albertson’s grocery store on Sunset Boulevard was preparing to load her vehicle when she noticed a man run past her cart and grab her purse, the St. George Police Department said in a press statement Thursday afternoon.
“She chased the male in an effort to recover her purse but he had entered a waiting vehicle before she caught up,” police said. “The occupants of the vehicle left the area.”
A similar incident was reported Thursday, involving similar circumstances. This time, a woman approached a customer in the Target store parking lot on River Road.
“The victim was carrying a purse and the female suspect tried to pull the purse out of the victim’s grasp, but a struggle for the purse ensued and the suspect was not able to take the purse,” police said. “The suspect fled to an awaiting vehicle and left the area.”
A theft at a convenience store in the Bloomington area where a man and woman had allegedly stolen beer from the store, reportedly occurred about an hour prior to the Target incident.
In all three incidents, witnesses were able to provide a description of the suspects and the vehicle they were driving. One of the witnesses was also able to obtain the license plate number of the vehicle. The suspect information from all three incidents was similar, police said.
Detectives responded to the area and began saturating parking lots of retail establishments hoping to locate the alleged purse snatchers.
St. George Police detectives located a vehicle matching the description provided by witnesses in the Washington City Wal-Mart parking lot. The detectives continued to watch the vehicle and contacted the Washington City Police Department when they observed a woman approach the car who matched the suspect’s description.
“When we went to make contact with that vehicle and the occupants of that vehicle,” Heppler said, “it fled through the back parking lot of Wal-Mart in Washington City. It exited on 3050 East and came up the road, at which point, it came into the Family Pawn … and crashed into this wall (at a) low speed (as it) failed to maneuver the turn.”
Police arrested the two occupants in the vehicle, identified as 43-year-old Dustin Reed Mills and 27-year-old Melissa Joy Brooks.
The potential charges Mills and Brooks are facing include robbery, theft, retail theft and fraud/forgery, police said, adding that they had received information that the credit cards stolen during the initial incident at Albertson’s may have been used by Mills and Brooks to make other purchases.
The investigation is ongoing.
Heppler commended the officers from the multiple agencies involved for their efforts in apprehending the suspects and bringing the case to a close. He also offered advice to those who find themselves the victims of similar crimes:
My advice would be that if something like this were to happen to you, that you would let the property go, do your best to get descriptions of the suspects, descriptions of the vehicle, directions of travel, anything that you could possibly do in that regard.
Persons arrested or charged are presumed innocent until found guilty in a court of law or as otherwise decided by a trier-of-fact.
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