A masked robber wearing a neon green traffic vest robbed a Salvation Army bell-ringer of his kettle in front of Sam’s Club on Tuesday, police said.
A person — the gender remained unclear Tuesday — got out of a car, pushed the bell-ringer over, grabbed the kettle and hopped back in the car for a getaway from the store, which is located near the end of Berkmar Drive, Albemarle County police Sgt. Darrell Byers said.
The bell-ringer, a Salvation Army staff member, was taken completely by surprise, said Maj. Allen Johnson, the group’s corps officer in Charlottesville.
“He was on the ground as he realized that it happened,” Johnson said.
The bell-ringer was taken to the hospital, but his injuries were minor, Johnson said. By Tuesday evening, he had been released, he said.
A bell-ringer will “absolutely” be out in front of Sam’s Club today, Johnson said.
“We pray lightening doesn’t strike the same place twice,” he said.
It’s the second time in 24 years that Johnson has seen such a crime, he said, but Byers said that county police see crimes against charities regularly. Canisters left on counters to collect donations for the unfortunate are also sometimes targets for theft, he said.
No one knew Tuesday exactly how much loot the robber got away with, but Sam’s Club is typically one of the Salvation Army’s more productive spots, Johnson said. The bell-ringer had been there since about 10 a.m., and the incident happened between noon and 1 p.m., he said.
The kettles are the group’s main fundraiser for the year, he said. The money people pitch into them goes to provide emergency shelters, as well as meals for the hungry, among other things, he said.
Police describe the robber as wearing a neon green traffic vest over a black leather jacket, along with black leather gloves and blue jeans.
Video showed the car to be a gold Mercury Sable from the early 1990s, and the vehicle was last seen headed south on Berkmar Drive, according to police.
Police are asking anyone with information about the robbery to contact Crimestoppers at 977-4000.
An official with Wal-Mart Stores Inc., which owns Sam’s Club, called the incident “appalling” and said the company is cooperating with local authorities on the investigation.