Surveillance footage at a New York City department store shows a man reaching into the bra of a 93-year-old woman in a wheelchair and stealing $600 from her.
“I was scared. I wasn’t expecting it,” the victim, Maria Vasquez, reportedly told The New York Post on Thursday. “He reached over and startled me, yanking the envelope from my bra. He scratched me and took off running. I just screamed, ‘Run, run, he stole my money!’”
The suspect has been identified as 26-year-old Broyoan Lopez who was arrested early Friday, according to The Huffington Post. Lopez faces charges of robbery and grand larceny.
“I feel safe — this guy is going to be in jail and not keep robbing people,” Vasquez said of the culprit’s arrest. “I want the authorities to punish him, to put him in jail. He has to pay.”
When the incident took place, her caretaker was present but was browsing around the store when Lopez made his move, according to the New York Daily News.
Vasquez said she just lives a few blocks from the Harlem store where she was mugged, and said she believes the thief followed her from a nearby bank where she had just cashed a social security check.
“I use it to pay for everything. Everything I have to pay for,” she said. “I need it ... because my husband died seven years ago, and I’m alone.”
Vasquez may have been afraid as it was all happening, but she noted that had this occurred in her youth she would have retaliated against Lopez.
“He only escaped because I have an injured hand,” she reportedly said. “If only I was young, I would have fought with the guy. If I was healthy, I would have grabbed him right there and punched him.”
While the thought of someone taking advantage of an elderly woman in a wheelchair is both heartbreaking and infuriating, there is a silver lining in this case. Vasquez was reimbursed her $600 by an East Harlem businessman upon learning of her traumatic experience.
Josh Cohen — who owns the retail store where Vasquez was robbed — replaced every penny that was taken from her and threw in a new pair of shoes, the New York Daily News reports.
“I'm sorry for what happened to you, I hope this is going to make you feel better," Cohen reportedly said while kneeling alongside the senior citizen's wheelchair.
Taking it a step further, many people who read articles about the incident and fellow New Yorkers started a GoFundMe campaign for Vasquez which has raised nearly $2,000 and counting.
This tragic story was quickly flipped into an uplifting reminder about the power of humanity.
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