Erratic U-Haul driver hits bar patrons, parked cars after Philadelphia purse snatching

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Friday, April 30, 2021
Erratic U-Haul driver hits 2 people during purse snatching: Police
Philadelphia police have arrested a driver who is accused of hitting multiple bar patrons while attempting to steal a purse on Thursday night.

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- Philadelphia police have arrested a driver who is accused of hitting multiple bar patrons while behind the wheel of a U-Haul truck after stealing a woman's purse on Thursday night.

After the theft, police say the suspect led officers on a brief chase that ended in a crash.

It happened around 6:30 p.m. at the International Bar and Restaurant near Front Street and Cecil B. Moore Avenue.

People were enjoying a night out in the city's Kensington section while, police say, the U-Haul driver reached out to snatch a purse and ultimately crashed into several parked cars, including policer vehicles, and an outdoor dining structure.

"(He) tried to reach over and snatch the purse and kind of turned left into the dining structure and just crushed it," recalled John Labosky of Northern Liberties.

Police say a 62-year-old man who was dining outside was struck and suffered minor injuries. Witnesses say a motorcyclist tried to stop the U-Haul driver from getting away.

Video captures a suspect ramming a Philly police vehicle after a pedestrian accident and purse snatching led to a pursuit on April 29, 2021.

"He just plowed right through him, thank God that dude is OK. He was really like heroically just trying to stop this guy from leaving the scene," said Brit Thomas of West Philadelphia.

Police say the 26-year-old driver of the motorcycle suffered minor injuries.

The 43-year-old suspect was able to get away. Police say officers tried to stop him in the 200 block of West Birch, and he acted like a demolition driver. Video captured the suspect ramming his U-Haul into a police vehicle and several parked cars in an attempt to get away.

"When attempting to pull the driver out, the driver actually refused and hit the gas pedal and tried to run over some of the officers that were on foot," said Chief Inspector Scott Small.

The 43-year-old U-Haul driver, identified as Benigno Melendez, was taken to an area hospital to be evaluated.

He is charged with theft and unlawful taking, police said.