A man entered the Coach store at Vintage Faire Mall, picked up several handbags and tried to leave with them, then slugged an employee who tried to stop him, Modesto police said.
According to Lt. Jolene Gonzales, the man entered the Coach store at about 6:30 p.m. Monday and grabbed several purses, priced at $300 to $500.
When an employee confronted the suspect, the man punched her, Gonzales said. Surveillance footage shows a man holding several purses, about to strike the woman, then struggling with her.
"We would like to catch this suspect, since he is so brazen and has the audacity to strike a woman, who is trying to apprehend him," Gonzales said in an email.
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The employee was not injured and the store was open as usual Tuesday. A manager on duty said the staff would have no comment on the theft.
The suspect is described as Latino, 5 feet, 10 inches tall, wearing a black Cincinnati Reds baseball cap with a gray bill, a gray hooded sweatshirt, blue jeans and gray shoes.
Maria Halstead, senior property manager for Vintage Faire, referred calls about the case to Modesto police. In general, however, she said, "Security is a huge priority for us — the safety of the customers and shoppers at the mall is paramount as well as the employees at the stores."
Halstead said mall staff works with Modesto police, which deploys officers at the Dale Road center daily.
"The Police Department are fantastic partners with us," she said.
Modesto Police Sgt. Ivan Valencia said such a violent attack is unusual, but the theft of high-end merchandise is all too common.
"A lot of times, these end up in a flea market, or get sold through eBay or Craigslist," Valencia said.
Customers who find deals on high-end merchandise that sound too good to be true, either at a market or online, are cautioned that the items in question likely are either knockoffs or illegally procured.
"Just recently, we found an item on Craigslist that was stolen six years ago," Valencia said.
The items, two industrial sanding machines worth roughly $2,000 each, were returned to their owner.
"Unfortunately, we weren't able to make an arrest," Valencia said.
The sellers said they had purchased the sanders previously, and police couldn't determine that wasn't the case. But the department's high-tech crimes unit keeps an eye out for merchandise that has been stolen to appear in the online marketplace.
Investigators ask anyone with information on the suspect or the case to contact Crime Stoppers at (209) 521-4636. Tipsters can email tips at www.modestopolice.com/CrimeStoppers or text them to CRIMES (274637) by typing "Tip704" plus a message.
Breaking News Editor Patty Guerra can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (209) 578-2343. Follow her on Twitter, @pattyguerra.