AUSTINTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – A man is facing felony and misdemeanor theft charges after police say he was caught stealing from a donation stand for disabled veterans.
Just before 3 p.m. Friday, officers were called to the Walmart on Mahoning Avenue in Austintown, where they received a report that a man stole money from the Disabled American Veterans. The group had a donation stand outside the business — it’s something they and Bob Cooper have been doing for years.
“The reason we need donations is because we have a wheelchair program that we lend out to veterans and that,” Cooper said.
Only, their collection last Friday didn’t turn out as planned. Cooper and another 75-year-old man who were volunteering at the stand told police that they were collecting money when the suspect — Tshombe Miller, Jr., 19, of Youngstown — walked out of the store and approached as if he was going to donate. They said he grabbed the donation bucket, however, and ran away.
“He just came up, said thank you, stuck his hand in there, took the jar and ran,” Cooper said.
Cooper said he had just removed hundreds in large bills from the collection jar, but there was still more than $100 left in ones.
“He ran as fast as he could,” Cooper said.
A witness who saw the theft said she tried chasing Miller but tripped and fell, causing minor injuries to her knee.
According to a police report, dispatch received a report that Miller ran through the parking lot toward the woods on Wilcox Road. A witness pointed officers toward where Miller ran, and an officer reported seeing him come out in the parking lot of Tractor Supply and go inside, where he was arrested. Police found Miller locked in a bathroom. They released body camera video of his arrest.
Police said Miller was found with a bottle of Parrot Bay alcohol and various bills totaling $160. Police said he had three watches on each wrist and two rings on his hand, which were later found to have been stolen from Walmart.
Miller was arraigned on Monday and pleaded not guilty to the charges. He is now sitting in jail. A preliminary hearing was set in the case for April 19.
Cooper hopes the incident serves as a lesson.
“Hopefully, this will give ’em the idea, you know, if you do this, you’re gonna get caught,” he said.
In the meantime, Cooper says he and his fellow veterans will continue collecting donations.