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Two men charged after purse snatching victim and boyfriend fight back

New Hampshire Union Leader

November 08. 2013 10:36PM
A green handbag, above, was the focus of a battle between its owner, Monique LeClair, 20, her boyfriend, Travis Hardy, 26, and a man who snatched it Thursday morning as the couple were walking at Hanover and Chestnut streets near the Hanover Street Chophouse restaurant in Manchester. LeClair said she does not regret struggling with the thief to get her purse back even though she suffered an ankle injury in the incident. (PAT GROSSMITH/Union Leader)

MANCHESTER -- Monique LeClair remembers getting punched in the head by the driver of a getaway mini­van after she chased down a robber who snatched her purse Thursday morning and followed him into the vehicle to get it back, police said.

But LeClair, 20, her right ankle wrapped in a bandage on Friday, said she never felt the punches to her head because of adrenaline.

"I was hanging out the side of the door trying to get my purse back, and he (the driver) started punching me in the head," said LeClair, a petite woman who speaks softly. "I kept screaming, 'Give it back! Give it back!'"

The driver started to pull away, and the passenger car door, which was still open, hit a sign. The door bounced back and hit her in the ankle, knocking both her and her boyfriend, Travis Hardy, 26, to the ground.

The theft happened about 11:20 a.m. on Hanover Street, just east of Pine Street, near the Hanover Street Chophouse.

LeClair and Hardy were walking together when they stopped to talk to a friend. LeClair said she noticed a silver van pass by, turn around and head back toward them. She said a man jumped out of the van and grabbed her lime green leather purse.

She chased after him. LeClair said she has been looking for work for the past two weeks — in accounting, as a receptionist, "but anything, really" — and her purse contained her ID and birth certificate, identification she had needed for a job interview the day before.

She said she would be unable to get another job without the identification and does not have the money to replace them.

So when the man snatched her purse, she didn't hesitate. Neither did Hardy, who ran to the driver's side of the van, but the door was locked. He tried unsuccessfully to break the window with his elbow, but then went to help LeClair when he saw the driver punching her.

LeClair, Hardy and the passenger battled over the purse — a struggle that lasted about 30 seconds, Hardy estimated. The driver, he said, was yelling at the passenger to give her back the purse, while LeClair was screaming to him to give it back.

Both said there were two other young men in the back seat of the minivan who stayed out of the ruckus.

LeClair said she was hanging out the door when the driver pulled away and the door hit a street sign. The door bounced back and hit her in the ankle and knocked both her and Hardy to the ground. Hardy said he got a cut on a foot.

But she had her purse.

Two Manchester police officers were about a block away working a construction detail at Pine and Chestnut streets when they heard the commotion.

Officer Stephen Flynn saw the van leaving and called in a description of it to headquarters.

Meanwhile, Officer Andrew Fleming located LeClair and Hardy at Pine and Laurel streets, and they told him what happened.

Patrol Officer Tyler Shaw spotted the van at Bridge and Chestnut streets and stopped it.

The driver, identified by police as Daniel Valentine, 18, of 80 Karatzas Ave., and passenger Kenneth Lemite, 18, of 84 Karatzas Ave., were arrested.

Valentine is charged with robbery, conduct after an accident and reckless conduct. Lemite is charged with robbery.

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