CASCADE, Mich. — It was just a few days ago that a quick shopping trip turned into a night that a local woman could've never expected.
The Kent County Sheriff's Office is still looking for several suspects who are accused of robbing that woman in the parking lot of a retail store along 28th Street, and then doing the same to another woman at another store just down the road minutes later.
On Friday, 13 ON YOUR SIDE spoke to one of those victims, who is sharing her story in hopes that this won't happen to anyone else.
"I had been shopping around, putting a few more things in my cart, and I was really just wanting to get home, so I put my guard down," said Katie, who asked to keep her last name anonymous.
Around 7:30 Monday evening, Katie, who lives on the Southeast side of Grand Rapids, was robbed in the parking lot of the Meijer on 28th Street in Cascade.
"It happened very, very quickly," she said. "I didn't even get an opportunity to put my purse inside my car because it was taken before that."
Katie said she had popped the trunk of her minivan and was about to unload her bags.
"All of a sudden, I was hit from the back side and knocked very hard, and realized my purse was gone," she said.
Two cars down from her, she said she noticed a white four-door car was backed into a spot. One of the windows was broken out and covered with plastic.
"Then the runner, as I'm calling him, ran past me with my purse, jumped in that vehicle, and away they went," Katie explained.
She said she was in disbelief.
"Because of the slow motion of it all," she said. "You can see what is happening, and you're processing it."
"It was difficult at first, just to realize what was happening, seeing the vehicle leaving the parking lot, and then knowing there's nothing you can do," she added. "So that was a hard thing to just stand there and take in for a moment."
Luckily she wasn't seriously injured, and Katie immediately filed a report with the Kent County Sheriff's Office who met her at the store. Within minutes, deputies told her there had been another similar incident just down the road at the Sam's Club on 28th.
"I was so disappointed because if there was one more person that had to feel the feelings and know the thoughts that I was just going through was so hard," Katie said, with tears in her eyes.
The Kent County Sheriff's Office said the suspects are believed to be younger teen boys in stolen cars. Sgt. Eric Brunner with the Kent County Sheriff's Office said these thefts appear to be random. He said the thieves appear to wait in a vehicle and pick out older women who are alone.
And by speaking out, Katie hopes that other will be cautious.
"I learned afterwards that there were not as many cameras out in the parking lot of the store that I thought," she said, "and so I am hoping that Meijer will take steps to improve the security outside, and the security of their customers and their belongings."
Katie explained this experience as not just an inconvenience, but rather a real personal violation.
"One thing that I think is really important is to be thoughtful in helping somebody, and not to victim shame them," Katie explained. "And I just want other women to know that it's not their fault."
The Kent County Sheriff's Office tells 13 ON YOUR SIDE that the Wyoming Police Department houses the MPACT task force, which investigates pattern crimes, and are now working the case alongside a detective.
"The Kent County Sheriff's Office askes shoppers to be mindful of their surroundings and where they place their things," the sheriff's office said in a statement.
They suggest leaving your purse at home or hidden in your vehicle and taking only what you need to pay inside the store when you go in.
No suspects have been arrested or identified by police as of Friday.
"I'm hoping that they are apprehended, and that they are prosecuted so they won't be able to do this again," Katie said.
If you have any information about either of these incidents, or any others in the area, you're encouraged to contact the Kent County Sheriff's Office, or you can report tips anonymously through Silent Observer.
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