NJ.com — ELIZABETH — Police say they've busted the thief who stole a donation can for a teen battling cancer from a city bakery – and the city's police and fire unions have stepped up to more than replace the stolen funds.
The Feb. 15 surveillance video from Alkazar Bakery shows a woman in dark clothing swipe a large plastic jug that had roughly $350 in donations for Kevin Blanco, a 16-year-old from Kearny battling stage three Hodgkin's lymphoma.
Police used that video and other intelligence to charge Jessica Lopez, 27, of Elizabeth with the crime, according to Deputy Chief John Brennan.
Brennan said police made the arrest today, within 30 minutes of becoming aware of the theft.
"She had other outstanding warrants and with the media attention and all the emotions involved, we were able to develop information quickly," Brennan said.
He said Lopez was in the store for about a half hour before ordering anything, but then came to the counter to ask for a sandwich and stuffed the jar under her jacket when the employees went to the back to prepare it. She then quietly exited the store, he said.
"Our members felt terrible about the whole situation," said FMBA Vice President David Bialas. "Although the young man is from Kearny this incident happened here. Our firefighters take pride in our city and want it to be remembered for our benevolence and work in the community, rather than the greed of others."
"Our thoughts go out Kevin and his family," added Elizabeth PBA President Rich Steinke. "Whenever you can do something good for the community it shows our officers' commitment to them."
Blanco was in high spirits today after leaving the hospital with a good report on his blood counts from his doctors.
"Everything in life happens for a reason," said Blanco. "Maybe she did it because she had kids to take care of or she had a family. I hope the money she took went to a good cause. ... All the support is making me stronger."
The large plastic jug had about $350 in donations for Kevin Blanco, a 16-year-old from Kearny battling stage three Hodgkin lymphoma.
Blanco's mom Silvina Novas said her son was diagnosed last month and is about to begin his third cycle of chemotherapy.
"He's a sweet boy," Novas said. "When I saw the video I was kind of upset, but he immediately said, 'Maybe she needed it.'"
The Elizabeth Uruguayan Club is holding a benefit for Blanco on Feb. 27. An online fundraiser for Blanco has also raised more than $6,000.
Brennan credited five officers with the arrest – Sgt. Tom Kelly, Det. Tom Mikros, Det. Louis Garcia, Det. Carmine Gianetta and Officer Jorge Joacquim.
This article appeared on nj.com authored by Jessica Remo.