Sister Mary De Leon was with another nun and had just finished their shopping at the Food 4 Less. They were loading groceries in the trunk of their car when the suspect approached them in broad daylight two weeks ago. Surveillance video captured the crime on tape.
The suspect asked De Leon for money to help out his nieces and nephews, but police said she refused to give him money. Instead, De Leon suggested that he go to several churches in the neighborhood for help.
De Leon had just turned back to her car when the suspect grabbed her purse from her shopping cart. Before the sister realized it, he walked back to a waiting van that had been circling the parking lot the entire time.
For some reason, the driver of the van backed up past the nuns before finally taking off. De Leon tried to run after the car, but it was too late.
"It was shocking," said San Fernando Police Officer Adrian Flores.
Some people at the police department heard about the incident and took up a collection to buy the nun a new purse and gift cards.
Sister Mary Fatima Guevara, head teacher at the Poverello of Assisi School, says De Leon is too afraid to speak in public these days, but she does want people to learn from her ordeal.
"She said, 'I really think that this is happening for a lesson for all of us, for the people who think that they might not be robbed ever to be careful," said Guevara.
Guevara said De Leon has already forgiven the suspects for the crime.
"She was blaming herself for leaving her purse in front of the car," Guevara said. "She said, 'Next time, I'll just hold it with me,'"
In a handwritten note, De Leon thanked the police department and said, "There's no excuse for me losing anything when I go to the store." She also said she will now be praying to St. Michael, the patron saint of police officers.
No suspect description was available. The getaway vehicle was described as a dark blue Dodge Caravan. Anyone with information is urged to call the San Fernando Police Department at (818) 898-1267.