- Associated Press - Thursday, December 11, 2014

GULFPORT, Miss. (AP) - A man robbed a Salvation Army bell ringer and ran off with her kettle full of cash just as she was finishing her shift and thanking donors outside a grocery store, according to police accounts and surveillance video.

Michelle Pope said the man pushed her back and grabbed the kettle before she could react.

“Next thing I know, my kettle is running down the road. I tried to chase him down,” she said. “He was just too fast.

“He really needs to return that bucket, and he really needs to apologize,” Pope told WLOX-TV in Biloxi (https://bit.ly/1GojQHw).

The Tuesday incident was caught on video outside a Winn Dixie in Gulfport.

The video shows the man coming up on the side of Pope and running away. Another camera shows him walking up, wearing a red cap, a blue jacket, jeans and black shoes.

Pope said it was her first holiday season ringing for the Salvation Army. She said she did it to make some extra cash - Salvation Army Maj. Gary Sturdivant said the organization has been hiring bell ringers at minimum wage because of a lack of volunteers.

“Ringing a bell was a way for me to make a little money to give my kids the Christmas they deserve,” Pope said.

At the end of a shift, a normal bell-ringer gathers $150 to $300 in donations, Sturdivant told The Sun Herald (https://bit.ly/1GokdSy). In his 30 years at the Salvation Army, he added, he has never had a kettle stolen.

“The saddest part is if the guy was that needy, he could have just come down to our center,” Sturdivant said.

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