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Samaritan helps police recover purse snatched from Day reporter in New London

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Michael A. Albert
Michael A. Albert

New London — A good Samaritan helped police apprehend a man accused of snatching a purse from a Day reporter on State Street Tuesday evening, police said.

Kimberly Drelich said she was walking from her home back to The Day when she heard loud footsteps quickly approaching around 5:15 p.m.

Drelich, who was near Thames River Greenery at 70 State St., said she turned to look at the same time the man snatched the purse from her shoulder. She grabbed for the purse but couldn’t get it back, she said.

Drelich, whose phone was in the purse, began shouting that the man had stolen her purse, at which point bystander Ben James began chasing him.

James said he had just gotten out of his car, which he had parked near the Greenery, when he heard Drelich shouting.

"I saw a man run past my car carrying the purse," James said. "He bolted across the street and I started running. It was just a reaction."

James said he tried to grab the purse once, at which point the man turned around, squared up with James and told him not to get involved.

James said he backed off but used the lull to call police. James said the man began running again when he saw James put the phone to his ear. James again gave chase, this time giving police a play-by-play of where the man was going.

Drelich said she followed behind the men, who had turned onto Eugene O’Neill Drive, but stopped when they crossed the road and went toward Masonic Street. Two drivers pulled over to see whether she was OK; one of them also called 911.

James said he slowed up when the man turned from Masonic into a dark alleyway. About the same time, a dispatcher told James police had spotted the man.

Police said they apprehended the man, Michael A. Albert, 39, of 325 Huntington St., behind 7 Gov. Winthrop Blvd.

Police charged Albert with third-degree robbery, second-degree breach of peace and second-degree larceny in connection with the incident.

Police said Albert was arraigned in New London Superior Court Wednesday morning.

Police presented James with a department challenge coin for his “commendable civic deed,” Capt. Brian Wright said.

James, who used to live in New London but now lives in Salem, said he was "a little overwhelmed" by the honor.

"I didn't feel I did anything special," he said. "I just chased the guy."

Drelich, who said she typically is wary of her surroundings, hadn’t experienced something like this in the city before. She plans to carry her phone in a pocket from now on.

"I'm incredibly grateful for the good Samaritans and the police who came to my aid," said Drelich, who covers Groton for The Day. "It's touching to see people stepping up to help a complete stranger."


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