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Woman sprayed with substance; purse stolen in ‘diversionary theft scheme’ in Lawrence

Police are looking for two men who allegedly teamed up to distract a woman and snatched her purse from her car in the parking lot at the Mercer Mall, according to the Lawrence Township Police Department.

The victim told police that she had visited the Bank of America branch at the Mercer Mall and then made her way to the Ross Dress for Less store nearby on July 25.

While heading to the store, she noticed a Hispanic man sitting outside of the store, police said.

The woman went into the store and noticed the same man had allegedly walk past her several times while she was shopping, police said.

The woman left the store and as she was driving away, she noticed her low tire pressure light had come on, police said.

The same Hispanic man she had noticed in the store allegedly flagged her down in the parking lot. He allegedly told her that her car had a flat tire, police said.

The man allegedly offered to help fix the flat tire, police said. He picked up a can of Fix-a-Flat from a green SUV that had pulled up next to her car. He then allegedly asked her to help him connect the can of Fix-a-Flat to her tire, police said.

As she bent down to help, the man allegedly squirted her in the face with the contents of the can, police said. While she was wiping the spray from her face, the man got into the passenger seat of the green SUV, which drove away, police said.

When the woman got back into her car, she noticed that her purse was missing, police said. At that point, she realized she had allegedly been the victim of a diversionary theft scheme and reported it to police.

The suspect is described as a Hispanic man who is about 35 to 40 years old. He is about 5 feet 3 inches tall, and he was wearing a white hat and reading glasses. There is no description of the driver of the green SUV, which had Pennsylvania license plates.

Anyone with information should contact Lawrence Police Detective Ryan Dunn at 609-844-7125 or rdunn@lawrencetwp.com.

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