The arm suddenly reached in and grabbed the 92-year-old woman’s purse.
The arm is all the woman saw about 4 p.m. Thursday as she put groceries in her car trunk outside the Dillons store at Central and West Street.
“I was not going to let that purse go,” she said in an interview with The Eagle on Friday.
The struggle left her scraped and bruised and sore all over, but she survived it without a single broken bone.
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And she got her purse back.
And according to police, the 51-year-old culprit was in jail Friday after striking his head on a pole in the store parking lot. Police said the 135-pound robber fractured his skull apparently as he wrestled with others who heard the woman’s screams and came running.
Most of all, the 92-year-old said, she wanted to thank the strangers who helped her.
“It meant so much to me that he didn’t get away. There are good people out there. So many people, you know, don’t want to get involved.”
For her security, she and her family asked that her name not be divulged.
“It’s like a blur,” she said, “when I think back, ‘How did it all happen?’ ”
She can’t remember the words she screamed but knows she started screaming the instant the man grabbed her purse. He never said a word to her.
“I always knew if anything ever happened to me, I was going to yell. I wasn’t going to be quiet about it.”
What was she thinking as she held on?
“You don’t have time to think,” she said. “You react.”
She lost her grip on her purse and fell forward onto the pavement, landing hard on her elbow.
A 67-year-old woman and her son were in a car nearby when they heard the woman scream “to the top of her lungs,” said the 67-year-old, who asked that her name not be used for security reasons.
“When I first saw her, she was on her feet, and then she was on the ground. He was pulling her,” the 67-year-old said.
The 67-year-old stopped her car, and her 47-year-old son ran toward the robber, who dropped the purse and “just took off running.”
Wichita police Lt. Doug Nolte gave this account: After the robber knocked the woman down, he still wouldn’t let go of her purse and dragged her for some distance. A man came up and bear-hugged the suspect, and a scuffle broke out.
The robber bit the other man’s finger and managed to pull away, but he dropped the purse and struck his head on a pole in the parking lot while struggling with men coming to the woman’s aid. Others in the parking lot then held the robber down until officers arrived.
The suspect’s condition had improved enough for him to be released from a hospital. He was booked into the Sedgwick County Jail on Friday morning on suspicion of aggravated robbery and battery, records say.
Court records show he has a 2008 theft conviction in Sedgwick County.
After the incident, the 67-year-old said she told the 92-year-old woman that there was a reason people responded to her screams.
“It’s like I told her. I think I used the phrase, ‘We’re all brothers and sisters.’
“You can’t just stand by when someone is trying to hurt another.”