BROOKFIELD, Wis. - During a recent Sunday morning Mass, the
congregation at St. Dominic Church in Brookfield heard the
second reading from Chapter 10 of the Acts of the Apostles in
which Peter tells those gathered that whoever fears God and
acts uprightly is acceptable to him.
Given what worshippers witnessed moments earlier, Paul's
words to the Ephesians, "The thief must no longer steal, but
rather labor, doing honest work with his own hands ... " may
have been more apropos as parishioners, including an off-duty
member of law enforcement, helped foil an attempted robbery
that occurred immediately after the opening procession.
According to onlookers, the would-be thief - later identified
by authorities as 44-year-old Drew Marley of Menomonee Falls
- slipped into one of the front pews and sat next to a woman
whose purse he allegedly tried to put under his baggy
overcoat when she wasn't looking.
"When we were part way through the processional hymn our
musician kind of missed a beat or two on his organ playing,
which is very uncommon for him, and when I looked out, at the
same time that was happening, I saw what looked like a
scuffle on the side aisle, and one of the parishioners had
yelled out, 'You stole that woman's purse!'" said Deacon Greg
Diciaula, who was assisting at the Jan. 10 Mass being
celebrated by visiting priest Father Jerry Hudziak.
"The individual kept saying, 'Let me go, let me go, get your
hands off of me,' and there were a couple people who were
detaining him," Father Hudziak told the Catholic Herald, a
publication that serves the Catholic community in
"They kind of wrestled the purse away from the man and they
started to herd him down the aisle toward me, toward the back
of church," said Natalie Kieffer, who was standing several
rows behind the melee. "The man was swearing, you know, kind
of making a ruckus - but I can't even tell you how
lightning-fast this man was; he tried to grab another lady's
purse right across from me."
It was then, said Capt. Jim Adlam of the Brookfield Police
Department, that off-duty Detective Eric Levenhagen got
involved. Levenhagen was attending Mass with his family and
was sitting toward the back of the church.
"At that point, he jumped over two pews and took off after
the guy ... he identified himself as a police officer, kept
telling the guy to stop, (that) he's got to stop. The guy
would not cooperate," said Adlam.
Levenhagen and a group of parishioners pursued Marley out
into the parking lot. The suspect said he had a gun, so the
parishioners backed off and Levenhagen decided "to just take
him down to the ground," Adlam said.
Levenhagen detained him until squad cars arrived. Sgt. Mark
Tushaus, another St. Dominic parishioner, was among law
enforcement personnel on the scene.
St. Dominic staff had already been on high alert since the
evening before, said Deacon Diciaula, when a woman's purse
was stolen while she was out of her pew receiving Communion.
According to Adlam, that suspect was the same man who
returned the next day and still had the previous victim's
cellphone on his person.
Marley was arrested and charged with three counts of theft,
disorderly conduct, resisting arrest, possession of drug
paraphernalia and possession of stolen property.
Once the suspect had fled the church, Deacon Diciaula said he
felt it was necessary to refocus everyone's attention on the
"I think it taught everyone a really good lesson, because
obviously, we're in the Year of Mercy, and right away rather
than putting up the prejudices and the stereotypes of who
this could be and why, we need to be open as a community to
understand, you know, this is an individual who needs God's
help, as we all do, and his forgiveness, and we prayed for
him as a community at that point and we carried on," he said.
At the end of Mass, a trustee from the parish and Sgt.
Tushaus addressed the congregation and explained the suspect
had been apprehended and there was no further cause for
Father Hudziak was eager to end what had turned out to be a
rather dramatic liturgy on a light note.
"I said to the people at the end, 'You know, things are
really well-organized here at St. Dominic - look at the time,
in a little less than an hour we had a baptism, a Mass and a
Jurkiewicz writes for the Catholic Herald, a publication
serving the Catholic community in southeastern Wis.