MANATEE -- A Manatee County church is offering forgiveness to the man who robbed their offerings moments after service let out on Sunday.
Just after 11 a.m. Sunday, a man walked into the office of Kirkwood Presbyterian Church of Bradenton, 6101 Cortez Road, grabbed the pile of cash and checks that ushers had just brought in and walked off.
"There were probably still about 40 people at the church," Pastor Hope Lee said. "I think what made it so shocking was that he would do it in broad daylight in front of so many people."
The church has forgiven him, she said. They announced that with a message on their marquee.
"We believe he can be forgiven. We just hope whatever circumstances that caused him to do this will be healed soon," Lee said. "It is a desperate act to steal from a church."
The Manatee County Sheriff's Office is investigating the robbery.
"We do have some evidence," sheriff's office spokesman Dave Bristow said. "He seemed to know where to go or he got lucky."
Lee speculated he might have been waiting and watching from the church office and school's reception area.
"It's an open air office and it's connected to one of our classrooms," Lee said. "He must have watched our ushers come in."
The suspect was described as being in his 20s and was seen wearing a blue dress shirt and jeans, according to Bristow.
It happened so fast, though, that many of those churchgoers who were still there didn't get a good look at the thief, according to Bristow and Lee.
"It was somebody completely unfamiliar," Lee said.
It is unclear how much money the suspect made off with, since church members had not even counted the money when it was stolen.
Nothing like this has ever happened at the church.
"We live in a neighborhood that has a pretty decent crime rate," Lee said. "We at the church just pray that whatever it is that caused him to this, that ultimately he asks for forgiveness."
Jessica De Leon, Herald law enforcement reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7049.