An off-duty Police officer took down an alleged purse snatcher during Mass earlier this month. Worshipers at the church Wisconsin prayed for the 44-year-old Drew Marley of Menominee Falls after he had been arrested by the police.
According to eyewitnesses at St Dominic church in Brookfield, the would-be thief later creep-ed into one of the seats in front and sat next to the woman whose purse he allegedly attempted to purloin before he was stopped.
“When we were part way through the processional hymn our musician kind of missed a beat or two on his organ playing, which is very uncommon for him, and when I looked out, at the same time that was happening, I saw what looked like a scuffle on the side aisle, and one of the parishioners had yelled out, ‘You stole that woman’s purse!’" said Deacon Greg Diciaula, who was helping out at the Mass being celebrated by visiting Fr Jerry Hudziak.
According to the Wisconsin Catholic Herald, Fr Hudziak told them that, “The individual kept saying, ‘Let me go, let me go, get your hands off of me,’ and there were a couple people who were detaining him."
“They kind of wrestled the purse away from the man and they started to herd him down the aisle toward me, toward the back of church," said Natalie Kieffer, who was standing several rows behind the melee. “The man was swearing, you know, kind of making a ruckus – but I can’t even tell you how lightning-fast this man was; he tried to grab another lady’s purse right across from me."
Speaking to the Wisconsin Catholic Herald, Captain Jim Adlam of the Brookfield Police Department said off-duty Detective Eric Levenhagen who was attending Mass with his family quickly got involved.
“At that point, he jumped over two pews and took off after the guy … he identified himself as a police officer, kept telling the guy to stop, [that] he’s got to stop. The guy would not cooperate," said Captain Jim Adlam.
Levenhagen and a few others ran after Marley out into the parking lot. The suspect was armed, so Levenhagen decided “to do the job alone and take him down to the ground", the captain said.
The suspect was taken into custody when squad cars arrived at the scene and was charged with three counts of theft, disorderly conduct, resisting arrest, possession of drug paraphernalia and possession of stolen property.
Once the drama was over, Deacon Diciaula said he felt it was necessary to draw everyone’s attention back to the Mass.
“I think it taught everyone a really good lesson, because obviously, we’re in the Year of Mercy, and right away rather than putting up the prejudices and the stereotypes of who this could be and why, we need to be open as a community to understand, you know, this is an individual who needs God’s help, as we all do, and his forgiveness, and we prayed for him as a community at that point and we carried on," he said.
The visiting priest, Fr Hudziak, keen on adding a touch of humor with the situation at the end of the Mass said: “You know, things are really well-organised here at St Dominic – look at the time, in a little less than an hour we had a baptism, a Mass and a foiled robbery.”