Public rallies to replace donations stolen from disabled vets
The theft of money collected by disabled veterans outside a Fairfield supermarket has prompted an outpouring of community support to replace the stolen donations.
The "story" unfolded Wednesday afternoon as Timothy Kelly, a local Vietnam War veteran, was collecting donations for the Fairfield chapter of the Disabled American Veterans outside the Super Stop & Shop on King's Highway Cut-off when police said 35-year-old Sean Smith, of Black Rock Turnpike, snatched the donation jar.
"I went to hand him a flower, a For Get Me Not, and he said, `Thank You,' and ran off with the donation jar," Kelly later said of the incident. "It's just so low, especially before July 4th."
Police later caught Smith, who they said has a history of larceny and drug convictions, driving on the West Side of Bridgeport. They were able to easily identify Smith as the suspect because he drove off in a pickup truck with his contracting company's e-mail name -- swscarpentry.com -- painted on the back window.
Taken into custody, Smith was charged with fifth-degree larceny and is free on bond pending arraignment in Bridgeport Superior Court.
Kelly, a former Fairfield police officer, estimates he had about $800 in the jar when it was swiped.
Smith admitted taking the money, police said, but told officers he did so because he needed the money to feed his two children. But they added they have no information Smith has any family.
Police said they found only $130 in Smith's possession, and he was not able to account for the rest that he is accused of taking from the jar.
"There were a lot of generous people and I had a very good day," Kelly said about the money he had collected Wednesday outside the supermarket. He said every penny the disabled veterans group collects is used to support programs such as aid for indigent disabled veterans, transportation for veterans who need rides for medical treatment, and sponsoring programs such as bingo nights.
Ward said she was one of the people who had put money in the donation jar that day.
"I was doing some shopping and I gave him (Kelly) $5, got my little flower and went into the store," she recalled. "It's just terrible what happened. I just hope people will rally around this incident and show there is more good in this world than bad."
Ward said she intends to spread the word among her parishioners in hopes they will help replacing the money that was stolen.
Meantime, Kelly said he has received numerous calls from other media and the public since the story of the theft was reported in the Connecticut Post and Fairfieldcitizenonline.com. He said he was in front of the store Friday morning collecting donations and approached by many people who had read the story.
"People have been outraged about what happened and came out to give me even more money," he said.