With three strangers’ help, pastor’s wife foils brazen theft

FARGO - Parishioners at Lutheran Church of the Cross in West Fargo know their pastor's wife, Pam Thompson, is "a little off the beaten path," as she puts it.

Pam Thompson, seen Thursday, July 18, 2013, had this purse snatched here at Osgood Hornbacher's in Fargo, N.D., on Sunday but rather than give up, she grabbed the thief and held on before being shaken loose at the end of the parking lot. Her purse was retrieved by other women who intercepted the thief. Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor

FARGO – Parishioners at Lutheran Church of the Cross in West Fargo know their pastor’s wife, Pam Thompson, is “a little off the beaten path,” as she puts it.

A brazen would-be thief who’s still on the lam may have a similar feeling about Thompson after he tried to snatch her purse in broad daylight Saturday morning in a grocery store parking lot in Fargo.

Thompson fought off the man, albeit with some help from a few strangers now turned friends.

“All of a sudden he reached into my car, came out with my purse,” said Thompson, who had placed her purse in the vehicle as she loaded groceries on a shopping trip to Hornbacher’s. “I thought, ‘You are not taking my purse,’ and off I went.”

Off she went – running to keep up while holding on for dear life to the T-shirt of the fleeing man, somewhere in his 20s, with dark, long, curly hair who she had noticed earlier lingering around the parking lot.


He gave Thompson a bad feeling, even before he stole her purse.

Now, she said in an interview this week, she knows why.

“His shirt was almost ripped off his back … so I grabbed a handful of his hair,” said Thompson, who was shouting at the thief as they ran, demanding he give her purse back.

The heavyset man was starting to tire, she said, but then she screamed for help, slipped and went down.

That’s when she saw the two other women.

“They just took off like shots after him,” said Thompson, who could hear them telling him to put the purse down, that he didn’t have to do this.

She said she got up and trotted along after them, trying to help her good Samaritans.

The purse-snatcher, still clutching her bag, was headed toward a red car driving through the parking lot, which Thompson figured was a getaway car.


A woman driving a van figured the same thing and moved to cut the red car off.

Eventually, as the women cornered him, the man fell, dropping the purse and running away to the red car, with the woman in the van in pursuit to get the car’s license plate.

“I was so blown away,” Thompson said. “It was like something on TV.”

After a lot of talking and hugging, the four vigilantes called police dispatch to report the crime. They’ve since exchanged phone numbers, and each of the women has tried to explain to the others how they chose to spring into action in a potentially dangerous confrontation.

“The woman in the van said she could see when his shirt ripped, and knew something wasn’t right,” Thompson said.

That’s why the driver backed up to cut off the getaway car, which police have since identified.

License plates, suspect hair color, build and age are all potentially important information that police urge crime victims to observe and report to help them bring criminals to justice. They don’t, however, recommend intervening in a crime.

“My kids are not very happy with me,” she admitted, but Thompson said she felt the man was unlikely to harm her. “If he had asked me for money, I’d have given him money,” she said.


But she wasn’t about to let him walk away with her purse, which had about $200 in it.

Thompson said she doesn’t think she’d do it any differently again, especially since she’s made three new friends through their shared bravery, and her unwillingness to be victimized. They’ve since exchanged phone numbers, and she’s made a donation to one of the women’s favorite causes as a way of saying thank you.

“It was all of us working together synergistically – I couldn’t have done it alone,” Thompson said.

The pastor’s wife said she has only one regret about the incident.

“I wish I hadn’t sworn at the guy,” she said.

Emily Welker | Forum News Service

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