Winn Dixie manager bags purse snatcher

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, October 22, 2003

What started as a routine check of his drink machines on Monday ended up in the hot pursuit of a purse-snatcher for Winn Dixie manager David Nelson.

After finishing her shopping, Angela James said that she placed her purse on the driver’s side seat of her car and had turned to put her Wal-Mart shopping cart in the cart return area when a &uot;tall black man ran up, grabbed my purse, slammed my car door shut and took off running north behind Wal-Mart.&uot;

Nelson was checking the drink machines in front of his Interstate Plaza Winn-Dixie store when he heard James yell. He ran behind Wal-Mart in time to see the perpetrator running behind the BanCorp building and across the road to an open field.

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Nelson pursued the subject across the field and into the Pilgrim’s Rest Baptist churchyard, where the subject stopped.

Greenville police officer Curtis Miller arrived at that time and took Frederick Chambers of Fort Deposit into custody after a scuffle caused by Chambers’ resisting arrest.

He was charged with unlawful breaking-and-entering and second-degree theft of property and placed in the Butler County jail.

GPD Capt. Danny Campbell said Chambers still had the victim’s purse in his possession when he was arrested.

Nelson said the only time he was concerned for his safety was when he lost sight of Chambers in some tall grass.

&uot;I thought he might be waiting for me and try to ambush me then,&uot; he said. &uot;But I stepped out on the other side of the grass and saw him still running. That was the only time I really thought about it.&uot;

The 38-year-old manager says he could tell by what Chambers was wearing that he didn’t have a gun.

&uot;He was wearing a thin white t-shirt and some pants, there wasn’t anywhere for him to hide anything,&uot; he said.

Nelson, who has been the Greenville Winn-Dixie manager for two years, said he was involved in a similar incident a couple of years ago while he was manager of the Enterprise Winn-Dixie store.

&uot;The jewelry store next to the Enterprise store was robbed, and I chased that guy down,&uot; the Elba native said. &uot;I actually had to catch him. While he was running, I kicked his legs out from under him. When he fell, I jumped on his back and held him down until the police came.&uot;

Nelson said his store’s policy when a Winn Dixie product is stolen is not to pursue the thief once they get outside.

&uot;They tell us it’s not worth our lives,&uot; he said. &uot;I agree with that. But when someone steals something personal, I will go after him. It gets more personal when they get someone’s purse or hurt someone.&uot;

Wal-Mart Manager Joe Massanelli said he was extremely grateful to Nelson for his bravery.

&uot;Between [Nelson] and the police responding in less than three minutes, they were able to catch this guy,&uot; Massanelli said. &uot;Not only is it great that Ms. James got her purse back, but it’s a great message to others who might want to do this that they’re not going to get away with it.&uot;

He said his store plans to present Nelson with a &uot;Hero Award.&uot;

&uot;It was a very brave thing to do, and we at Wal-Mart want to thank him,&uot; he said.