A brazen daytime robbery that happened Wednesday afternoon left an elderly, decorated WWII veteran badly shaken. His family is grateful that he wasn't seriously hurt.
Pedro De La Garza, 93, was sitting in his daughter's vehicle in the parking lot of the HEB at Leopard and Nueces Bay Boulevard, waiting as his daughter quickly ran inside to get him some ice cream. That's when the suspect approached the vehicle and took De La Garza's wallet from his shirt pocket.
"If a guy needs some money and sees you alone and old, he's going to do something to you," De La Garza said. "That's the way I figure."
"So I rolled down the windows, I ran inside HEB. Just went to the ice cream section and paid, and when I was coming out, I saw that the employees were bringing him into the store," his daughter Grace Lerma said. "I thought he had gotten disoriented, and they told me he had been robbed."
Lerma said her father kept his wallet in his shirt pocket. The thief tossed the wallet back into the car after taking cash.
She said investigators told her it was a common crime.
"I was just appalled because, you know, to have somebody, these kids or youngsters, I don't know who they were, but they just patrol the parking lots to see if there's any elderly people in cars, and then they just take advantage of them," Lerma said.
The Kingsville native and father of five lives with his daughter. He is a WWII veteran who went straight to the Battle of the Bulge after leaving boot camp.
"We went over there and we hit Germany all the way across," De La Garza said. "We didn't stop until we went down to South Africa."
During his two years in the war, De La Garza is proud of helping a family hide in a cellar during a battle, and of the job he did as a field medic.
De La Garza said he had $200 hidden away, and the thief only managed to get away with about $20. Still, his daughter wants him and other seniors to be safe.
"I would tell people out there that take care of the elderly to never leave them in the car by themselves. I'm never going to leave him by himself in the car anymore," Lerma said. "And to make sure that they do not have their purse or their wallet in plain view."
De La Garza said he believes in right and wrong.
"What's yours is yours, and what's somebody else's is his," De La Garza said. "But if everybody was that way, we wouldn't have the war like we did before, you see."
No arrests have been made in the crime, but police say they do have a suspect and are looking for him.
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