Our coronavirus coverage is free for the first 24 hours. Find the latest information at Please consider subscribing or donating.

  1. Archive

Woman, 86, fends off two attacking teens with cane

An 86-year-old attacked by two teenagers who wanted her purse drove them away with whacks from her cane.

Beatrice Sternfeld had just stepped off a bus Wednesday morning at the Thelma Boltin Senior Center, where she works as a receptionist, when she was attacked from behind.

"I started up the stairs. I take them one at a time because I have to walk with the cane. All of a sudden, someone grabbed (my) purse. Then I hit her with my cane. She dropped the purse, and I hit her over the head."

Later, Mrs. Sternfeld was asked to look for her attackers as she toured the area in a police car.

"I sat in the car and said, "There they are,'

" she said.

Police arrested two girls, one 14 and the other 15, and charged them with robbery. They were taken to a juvenile detention center. One told police they tried to rob Mrs. Sternfeld, said Lt. David Huckstep.

To the women of the senior center, Mrs. Sternfeld is a hero.

"We all think she was very brave to do that," Alice Gogun said. "She shows that people our age can fight off those idiots. I think that was so cool. She's the hero here today. She's so calm about it. I would have to go home."

Huckstep said Mrs. Sternfeld was lucky.

"We encourage people to comply with their assailants," he said. "She very easily could have gotten hurt. A purse is not worth getting hurt over."

In a telephone interview Thursday, Mrs. Sternfeld said she had "been kind of nervous and didn't sleep well" after she got home Wednesday.

When asked if she would attempt to fight off attackers again, she replied, "I don't know. I hope it doesn't happen again. This is the first time this has happened in all my years."