MPD arrests panhandler who dumps woman’s purse near downtown bike rack

Deonte Thomas
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV)--- Surveillance cameras help police arrest an aggressive panhandler who followed a woman as she walked downtown on Feb. 10.

Joel DeSpain, a spokesperson with the Madison Police Department, said 32-year-old Deonte L. Thomas was arrested for robbery with use of force and felony bail jumping in the downtown area last Friday.

DeSpain said a detective was able to use the images to follow the suspect before and after the robbery. In doing so, the investigator recovered visual evidence which he was able to identify the suspect.

Police said it happened around 6 p.m. in the 300 block of W. Dayton Street. The 58-year-old Madison woman pulled out her cellphone and told the man she was going to call 911. He responded by grabbing her purse and taking off.

Officers were able to find the crime on video. They could see the strong-armed robber dumping the purse near a bike rack on State Street. Officers found the woman’s purse as well as some of the her property.