Police: Suspects used child to steal purse at Polk Walmart

WINTER HAVEN, FL (WFLA) - It was all caught on camera. A young boy, who police said isn't even 10 years old, is seen on video allegedly stealing a 64-year-old woman's purse at a Winter Haven Walmart.

The boy took the purse from the bottom of the victim's electric scooter while a man distracted her at the Walmart, located at 7450 Cypress Gardens Blvd., police said. Police also said a woman in the aisle, along with another young child, were part of the plan.

The two adults taught the boy how to do it, according to the Winter Haven Police Department. "He has been schooled," said Jamie Brown of the department.

Police are now searching for the four. The woman who was ripped off told News Channel 8, in an exclusive interview, she feels sorry for the child.

She hopes the boy will realize what he's doing is wrong. "Obviously, they're teaching him the wrong things, and he's going to have a rough life if that continues," Sullivan said.

She has problems with her muscles so she uses a scooter.

Sullivan told News Channel 8 about the incident. "When I turned around, I yelled, 'That boy stole my purse,'" Janice Sullivan of Lake Wales told News Channel 8.

Sullivan said the man pretended he couldn't reach an item on the shelf. She helped him, and that's when her purse got stolen, she said.

Walmart surveillance video shows the boy running out of the store and through the parking lot with the woman, man and young girl following him.

"It wasn't until I got to the front of the store and they all walked out, that's when I realized that they were all in on It," Sullivan said, reliving the trip to the store.

The suspects were seen leaving in a vehicle, which may be a late 1990s or early 2000s Mitsubishi Montero.

About an hour later, police said, the man used the victim's credit cards at a Walmart in Haines City and then a Winn Dixie in Dundee.

Police believe the suspects did the same thing in Lakeland. They aren't taking the crime lightly.

"The worst thing here is we have adults who are grooming a young person to steal and ultimately commit criminal behavior that more than likely won't stop at just taking a purse," Brown said.

If you have information on the identities of either of the adult suspects or the children, contact Detective Mike Leonard at (863) 401-2256. Tips can also be sent to Heartland Crime Stoppers at 1-800-226-TIPS (8477). Callers can remain anonymous and may be eligible for a cash reward.


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