Fernandina police make arrest in wallet theft

Updated with arrest details.

Fernandina Beach Police have arrested a suspect in the case of a wallet stolen from another man at the Green Turtle Tavern last Thursday night, according to a news release.

Fernandina Beach Police charged Lee Barron Williams Jr., 46, with petit theft on Wednesday, July 27, after he confessed to taking the wallet and fleeing from the Green Turtle Tavern. Williams clamed that he did not take the wallet directly from the victim, Vincente Perez. Williams claimed that Perez’s wallet fell to the ground and that he picked up the wallet and ran away with the intent of stealing it, according to a news release.  Police had considered charging him with robbery by sudden snatching, which is a felony crime.
The news release further states that investigators do not believe that Williams is responsible for a purse-snatching incident that occurred several weeks ago in the same part of town, and the investigation for that incident remains open. 

The suspect allegedly approached Vincente  Perez at the Green Turtle Tavern and asked him for a light. Perez then offered the suspect his lighter. The suspect lit a cigarette and gave Perez the lighter back, but stayed near Perez. The suspect then seemed to deliberately bump into Perez, took his wallet and quickly walked away. The suspect began to flee from the scene on a beach cruiser-type bicycle while Perez’s wife chased after him shouting that he had stolen her husband’s wallet, according to the release.

As the suspect was fleeing, Thaxton Rowe was leaving work at the Florida House Inn when he heard the commotion. Rowe then pursued and confronted Williams and was able to retrieve Perez’s stolen wallet. However, after handing over the wallet, Williams continued to flee the scene. Perez’s wallet was returned to him, the release said.

Though Police Chief Hurley commended Rowe for his efforts, the Fernandina Beach Police Department does not recommend citizens taking proactive actions against any potentially dangerous criminal, according to the release.

"I really don’t expect people to chase after offenders because you don’t know if the guy is armed or how desperate they are,” Chief Hurley said in an interview.

Hurley said the robbery by snatching incident occurred in the same area a few weeks ago. Two women left the Green Turtle Tavern and were walking near Centre Street when a man approached them and snatched a purse belonging to one of the women.

Anyone with information about that incident should contact Detective Sergeant Tracey Hamilton at the Fernandina Beach Police Department: 904-310-3215. 

egutierrez@fbnewsleader

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