Church Service Purse Snatchers Caught by Congregation 1/14/14
CBS 7 News
January 14, 2014
ODESSA-Two Odessa men were arrested this weekend after stealing a purse from a woman during a church service.
Police say 34-year-old Nicholas Kempf and 24-year-old Timothy Yanaga were both charged with theft of less than $500. Yanaga has bonded out of jail. Kempf is still being bars on a $100,000 bond after police say he pulled a knife on the church members who held them down after a chase.
It's hard to believe that these thieves would strike in the middle of a prayer service, but the pastor of the Odessa church says they’ve been targeted before.
Car theft and vandalism is so bad that churchmen actually patrol the parking lot during services. The latest purse snatching is just another reason they're installing security cameras at church.
The pews were full at Sherwood Baptist Church, heads bowed in prayer, when the two men snatched a purse off the walker of a 65-year-old woman.
"It’s sort of customary for us to bow our heads, close our eyes, and that was the opportune time to try and do something…or so they thought,” said Pastor Ivy Shelton.
“I was praying and all the sudden one of those guys jumped up, grabbed the purse made a dash and took out the back door,” said Jerry Wilkerson, who helped nab the suspect.
Wilkerson, an 87-year-old WW2 veteran, was one of many church men quickly out the door after them.
"They made their way out the back hallway and the door and the chase was on,” Shelton said.
“We got them all surrounded and this guy had pulled a knife on one of us, threatening him with the knife and about that time the police arrived,” Wilkerson said.
In the end, the purse was returned.
"Were you scared?”
“I didn’t have time to be scared, No,” Wilkerson said.
It’s the first time something has happened during a church service, but the church is no stranger to theft and vandalism. The pastor says it's just a sign of growing crime across the city.
“We’ve had vehicles broken into, church broken into, no one is immune,” Shelton said.
The church will soon install security cameras. Until then, they'll continue to watch out.
"People will do anything in this town to get a dollar,” Wilkerson said.
No word yet on when the security cameras will go up. The pastor says the congregation is praying for the two men involved.
Since this story aired, CBS 7 was contacted by the mother of an Odessa Man, Brandon Davis. She wanted us to note that her son stopped while driving by on 42nd to help apprehend the suspect. Davis is not mentioned in the police summary of the incident.