Thief thwarted by group effort to recover nurse’s stolen cash

Sarah McKenzie

A suspected thief could not evade the work of seven individuals bent on returning handfuls of cash and coins stolen from a 29-year-old woman in Stadium Village.
Tanya Brant, a nurse in the Department of Surgery, accidentally left her purse containing $250 in cash and change in a McDonald’s restroom Tuesday at noon. Little did she know that the mistake would turn into a hectic afternoon spent scrambling for her money all over the city.
While Brant was speaking with McDonald’s assistant manager Lawrence Andert about her missing purse, another employee walked out of the men’s bathroom with bulging pants pockets.
When Andert asked the worker to empty his pockets, Brant said the teenager pulled out handfuls of coins but denied stealing the change from her purse.
Brant said her wallet and purse were then retrieved from the men’s bathroom without any of the cash. But before police arrived to question the suspect, the employee took off on his bicycle, according to Minneapolis police reports.
Andert, a junior majoring in accounting, said the situation was difficult to manage at the height of the lunch rush.
“I tried to stop him,” he said. “He just stormed out.”
Brant echoed his frustration, and said she tried but failed to detain the suspect before police arrived.
“I grabbed another man on his bike and asked him to follow the kid,” she said.
The pursuit to catch the alleged McDonald’s bandit lasted all afternoon and spread beyond the University, she said. Two men on campus, one Minneapolis police officer and two other fast-food patrons, aided in the effort to catch the alleged thief.
A 32-year-old University student eventually caught up with the suspect in a wooded area near the University River Flats, according to police reports.
James Helvig, a senior in the College of Liberal Arts, said he witnessed the fast food worker hiding something in some bushes.
He told the police that he found $239 in cash after the suspect fled the area.
But Helvig did not stop there; he continued chasing the McDonald’s worker all the way to the suspect’s home on Lake Street in south Minneapolis.
“I already went that far,” he said. “I decided to just keep on going.”
The student later identified the suspect in his McDonald’s uniform at the University police station.
“Never before have I seen citizens in the community so willing to help out,” Brant said.
Police arrested the 16-year-old suspect and booked him at the Minneapolis Juvenile Division, according to police reports.
Brant said she was relieved that the situation was resolved in such a timely manner. She received the cash back from authorities Wednesday.
“Everyone was extremely helpful,” Brant said. “It looks like the case will be prosecuted.”
Andert said the suspect was terminated Tuesday after he was implicated in the theft.
He worked at the restaurant two to three times per week and appeared to be a good employee prior to Tuesday’s events, Andert said.