Pensacola Police are looking for a suspect who they say was a real-life Grinch who stole Christmas – or at least part of it.
Our story begins around five o’clock Saturday afternoon, in front of Cordova Mall on North 9th Avenue.
“He approached the bell-ringer in front of the mall, and gave him the story that he was there to collect the kettles,” said Pensacola Police Lt. Steve Davis. “That particular bell-ringer was suspicious and asked for ID. The gentleman left and never returned.”
Davis says the suspect appeared to follow the old adage, “If at first you don’t succeed” a little further up Airport Road.
“He went over and contacted the two bell-ringers in front of Sam’s Club, and gave them some story about he was there to collect the donations,” Davis said. “They were new to the Salvation Army, and so they turned over their kettles. He [suspect] somehow acquired an apron that resembled the Salvation Army aprons, and took time out to join them in a couple of Christmas carols.”
The two iconic red kettles contained around $1,300 in cash. The suspect is described as an African-American around 30 years old, five feet-eight inches tall and with a medium build.
He’s also suspected to robbing the Salvation Army’s thrift store on Davis Highway, of its computer and some video surveillance equipment.
Major Bob Cornett, Commander of the Pensacola unit, was unavailable for comment for this story. Speaking last year, he said the kettle campaign’s benefits go well beyond the holiday season.
“It sends kids to camp; it keeps the lights on and feeds people throughout the year,” said Cornett. “It provides stability to families.”
Saturday’s red kettle thefts go to the bigger picture of protecting your money this time of year, says Pensacola Police Lt. Steve Davis.
“If the Salvation Army can be victimized, then anybody can,” said Davis.
Anyone having information on this or any other such incident is asked to contact the Pensacola Police Department at 435-1900, or Crime Stoppers at 433–STOP.