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Veteran chases after man who steals VFW cash donations

HOUSTON – The VFW was selling raffle tickets right outside a grocery store when a man pretending to fill out a ticket took off with their donations. 

An Army veteran and retired Texas State Trooper, instincts kicked in when Tom Oleinik saw what was taken right in front of him.

"Little bit of shock for about a second, and then I jumped up, got around the table and started pursuing him," Oleinik said.

It was all caught on camera right outside the Huntsville Brookshire Brothers store.

Oleinik along with other volunteers from VFW Post 5781 were selling tickets, raffling off a BBQ pit for their annual fundraiser.

"We use that money for our operating expenses," Oleinik said.

The money was being collected in a vintage WWII Army helmet sitting on the table.

"All of a sudden, he snatched up the helmet with the money that we had collected that day, and ran out of the parking lot," Oleinik said.

Surveillance videos show the man wearing a black shirt and orange cap lingered inside the store for several minutes, walking back and forth.

Then he heads outside and waits in line to get a ticket. Once it's his turn, he bends over to fill out the raffle, but then, all of a sudden, he takes off, along with the helmet and $250 inside.

Oleinik tried to follow.

"I gave chase for about a block and he out-distanced me so badly, that I decided to go get my vehicle to follow him," Oleinik said.

But he was gone.

Now both Oleinik and police are trying to find him.

"An individual that will do that, there's no telling what he will steal," Huntsville police detective Everett Harrell said.

"I pity him in a way, because trying to do short cuts like that to make a few bucks, he's risking a lifetime in prison," Oleinik said.

If you have any information about who this man might be, you're asked to call Huntsville Police.