Caught on Video: Robbery of Boyle Heights Church Parishioner Carrying Weekly Offerings

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Los Angeles police were on Friday looking for a man who stole the weekly offerings from a Boyle Heights church — the same site where a nun was recently killed by a hit-and-run driver.

The daylight robbery, which was captured on surveillance video, occurred about 11 a.m. Tuesday, Jan. 12, at Church of Assumption, according to a news release from the Los Angeles Police Department.

LAPD provided video of a robbery in the parking lot of the Church of Assumption in Boyle Heights on Jan. 12, 2016.
LAPD provided video of a robbery in the parking lot of the Church of Assumption in Boyle Heights on Jan. 12, 2016.

An 80-year-old parishioner left the church carrying the weekly donations of the congregation, when a man ran up behind him and grabbed the canvas bag. The parishioner was knocked to the ground as he tried to hold on.

The robber dragged him and then got away with the bag, which was filled with about $4,100 in cash, coins and checks.

"That's not fair," said parishioner Yolanda Garcia. "People worked hard to give donations to help the church."

The congregation was already coping with tragedy when the robbery occurred. About a month earlier, a longtime nun and educator at the church’s school was struck by a hit-and-run driver. Sister Raquel Diaz died a week later at age 70.

"It seems like tragedies one (after) another here in this parish," said the Rev. Luis Guzman.

A $50,000 reward was being offered in that case.

In the robbery, the thief jumped into the passenger seat of a waiting late-model black sedan, police said. Surveillance video showed the assailant had been loitering in the parking lot for about 45 minutes before the robbery, according to LAPD.

The parishioner, identified by his wife as Martin Acosta, was treated for injuries at the scene by Los Angeles Fire Department personnel.

Rosario Acosta said her husband was left scraped and bruised by the encounter.

"This community is dangerous," Acosta said.

The getaway driver was seen acting as a lookout on the opposite side of the parking lot, LAPD stated. There was no description of that person.

The parish is open to anyone, Guzman said, but the parish has asked the Archdiocese of Los Angeles to pay for a secure fence around the church.

"Many people who are strangers come and we don't know what exactly is their intention," Guzman said. "We are not concerned about the money. We are concerned more about the people."

The thief was described as a Hispanic man with a thin build, wearing a black hat, dark jacket and light-colored pants.

There is no available description on the second suspect.

Anyone with information about this case was asked to call Detective Dante Palacio at 323-342-8981 or the Hollenbeck Division detective desk at 323-342-8900.

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