A man and woman in their 20s have been charged with robbery for allegedly stealing the purse of a 76-year-old woman in El Monte, police said Thursday.

The victim, an employee of El Monte Adult Day Health Care in the 9500 block of Telstar Avenue, saw the suspects in the trash dumpster area around noon March 14 and asked them to leave, according to El Monte Police Department Sgt. Richard Luna.

The employee then began walking back to work, but the suspects — later identified as 27-year-old Sylvia Marie Chavez of Bassett and 25-year-old Enrique Andres Salazar of Calimesa — cursed at the woman and approached her from behind while on their bicycles, Luna alleged.

“Chavez grabbed the victim’s purse and attempted to flee with it,” Luna said. “The victim fought back and refused to release the purse. Salazar pushed her to the ground. The victim struggled to hold onto her purse and was dragged on the ground by Salazar. Chavez was finally able to take the purse away. Both Chavez and Salazar fled on their bicycles.”

Witnesses saw what was happening and detained Chavez and though Salazar fled on foot, he was later found by responding officers and both he and Chavez were identified and arrested, Luna said.

The stolen purse was located and returned to the woman, who sustained minor injuries, according to Luna.

The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office on Tuesday charged both suspects with robbery, Luna said.

Chavez was being held in lieu of $100,000 bail and Salazar in lieu of $160,000, according to sheriff’s inmate records. It’s unclear if either one entered a plea.

Luna said the actions of the witnesses were courageous and appropriate in this case, but advised that people should generally avoid contacting suspects and instead call 911.

“Reporting a crime without delay and remaining a good witness is effective and can still result in the arrest of the criminals,” Luna said.

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