For a woman in Cross Lanes, W.V., a last-minute trip the grocery store on Thanksgiving Day almost turned into a nightmare.
That’s when a man named Richard Palmer snatched her purse right out from her grocery cart – a purse whose contents police have since valued at over $1,000.
The woman called for help, and suddenly a pair of men – who just so happened to be U.S. military veterans – took off on foot, chasing after her purse snatcher.
The veterans ran through the parking lot, across intersections, around other businesses, working in wordless coordination to hedge in the thief from different angles.
WSAZ-TV in Charleston, W.V., caught up with one of the veterans afterward.
“Behind me I heard this lady scream for help, or like, ‘Hey, bring that back,’” recalled Christopher Lawrence, a 20-year Army veteran who had served two tours in Afghanistan and remains active in the U.S. Army Reserve.
Lawrence explained his soldier instinct kicked in as he and others quickly chased after the purse snatcher, yet even though they didn’t know one another, he and another man began to silently coordinate their pursuit.
“It just happened on the fly. It was kind of like we were communicating,” Lawrence told WSAZ, “but he knew exactly what to do, and I knew what to do, and we just got it done.”
Cut off from every angle, the thief eventually circled back around a Tim Hortons bakery and ran right back into the Krogers parking lot where the pursuit began. That’s also where the pursuit ended.
“[We] chased him around the back of Tim Hortons, and I went the other way and we met in the middle and the other fellow veteran tackled him first and I got there second and we just held him there till the cops came,” Lawrence explained.
Lawrence said afterward he doesn’t consider himself a hero, just a person doing what anyone would have, seeing such a crime at such a time.
“I mean, on Thanksgiving? Come on,” he told Charleston’s WCHS-TV.
Still, Lawrence said his training in the military taught him to protect his community, a lesson that anyone can make a difference if they’re not afraid to act.
“If you pitch together and not just let things happen, it can be a safer place and a better place to live,” Lawrence said.