Good deed cost youth, but it inspired others

Associated Press

SEATTLE — Misionare Toilolo didn’t think twice when he realized that two men chasing a purse snatcher weren’t going to catch him. He set down the gifts he’d bought for his family and joined the pursuit.

"I’m fast," he said as he passed Chaim Van Den Hof, one of the men flagging in the effort to catch the thief Thursday afternoon.

"He had no fear," Van Den Hof said later. "He didn’t even think about it. He stopped the guy and wrestled him to the ground."

Police arrested the man, and Elaine Murakami was very pleased to get her purse back.

Then came the down side.

Toilolo’s bag of gifts, which he’d set down at a bus stop, was gone when he got back.

The 17-year-old Toilolo says it took six paychecks and three months of allowance to save the $600 he used to buy the gifts.

He sat on the curb, head in hands, and wept. It was all gone — including the Sony PlayStation 2 video-game console he’d promised his 12-year-old brother.

"That is cold, cold nature, that a person could take a bag when a citizen is trying to help another citizen," Toilolo said. "I had just bought this PlayStation for my brother. … When I told him I was getting it for him, his eyes just lit up. Now, I’m not going to get to see his face light up like that."

He had no regrets, though, about recovering Mukakami’s purse.

"I just hope Elaine was happy, because I was so happy when I saw her, just so happy I could help out," Toilolo said.

Van Den Hof, who witnessed Toilolo’s sad discovery, says he felt even worse later, when a police officer who’d given Toilolo a ride to the Boys and Girls Club in White Center called to say the teen was serving dinner to families who couldn’t afford their own Christmas. Toilolo is president of Keystone, the club’s volunteer service.

"He lost all his Christmas presents and he was on his way to volunteer his time," said Van Den Hof, who works on the trading floor for Washington Mutual Bank. "It just broke everyone’s heart, and one of my colleagues said, ‘We’ve got to do something about this.’ "

So Van Den Hof sent an e-mail to co-workers on Friday and in a couple of hours raised $605. He then called Murakami, who pitched in $200.

"I didn’t lose anything, and this young man, who’d worked so hard to buy presents, not even things for himself," she said, her voice breaking.

Rewarding Toilolo was rewarding for everyone involved, she said.

"Misionare was really overwhelmed, and he was crying," she said after he’d been given the money. "He kept saying, ‘Oh, you guys, you don’t have to do this.’

"I just think he’s a really good role model for young people today."

Copyright ©2001 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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