Parishioners chase down suspected church thief

ESPAÑOLA, N.M. (KRQE) - A man is accused of making a bold move during Sunday mass, taking off with the cash collected during the offering. The suspect took off running, but parishioners weren’t far behind.

One parishioner jumped into action after spotting the suspect hide the church offering bag under his shirt. Several others helped take down the suspect until police showed up.

Sunday mass was wrapping up at Santa Cruz de la Cañada church in Española, when a parishioner spotted a man sneak the offering bag under his shirt.

“The public got involved, it’s one thing that you don’t mess around with,” said Detective Corporal Solomon Romero of the Española Police Department.

According to the report, when the witness confronted the thief, he bolted out the door. That’s when three other parishioners jumped into action, and chased the suspect, 23-year-old Richard Horton down the road.

“They were able to chase him away from here, he ran towards an empty field, and then tried to jump a ditch, he ended up falling into the ditch,” explained Romero.

That’s when police said the parishioners tackled Horton and held him there until police showed up. Church employees told officers that the offering bag had about $2,500 inside.

The money goes toward church programs and expenses and since many people pay with personal checks, officials are thankful the offering didn’t end up in the wrong hands.

“It has all their information, their bank information, so that could lead to more criminal activity as far as identity theft, of course the check fraud,” said Romero.

All of the money was returned to the church and no one was hurt.

When detectives questioned Horton, he told them he wanted the cash to buy heroin. It’s a problem that’s very familiar to law enforcement.

“We see that most of our property crimes are drug-related, heroin is the drug of choice up here, you know we’re trying to battle this,” explained Romero.

Although officers wouldn’t recommend chasing down a suspected thief, in this case, they’re thankful it worked out.

“You don’t know if he has any weapons or anything else, however it is nice to see the public taking a stand,” said Romero.

Horton was arrested and charged with burglary and larceny.

The church priest was unavailable Tuesday afternoon for an interview, but he told KRQE News 13 over the phone, he’s thankful the generous offering was returned.

The man who tried to steal the offering lives near the church. Police said he’s a suspect in at least three other burglaries.

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