South County Beat

Couple looking for Good Samaritan who saved their Pismo trip in 1991

clambert@thetribunenews.comApril 30, 2013 

Dana Nance was scanning old photos when he found a few that jogged his memory of an incident that could have ruined a trip to California but instead left him and his wife with enduring gratitude for the actions of a stranger.

Dana and Debbie Nance of Fort Collins, Colo., wrote an email recently so a local man will know they have not forgotten what he did one overcast day in Pismo Beach about two decades ago.

All they have is the man’s first name — Bob — and a photo snapped at the Pismo Beach Police Station. They also took a photo of the responding police officer, and extended their thanks to him, too.

The couple didn’t recall the exact date of their trip; however, a search of court records revealed the incident happened Oct. 20, 1991.

On that day, the couple was driving from Orange County to San Francisco when they stopped in Pismo Beach for a break. They parked north of downtown and walked to the edge of a bluff, but the fog obscured their view.

After snapping a photo, they returned to the rental car only to find the passenger side window had been broken, and Debbie Nance’s brown Louis Vuitton purse, which she had stashed under the seat, was gone.

While his wife called police from a pay phone — as this was at least a decade before cell phones became ubiquitous — Dana Nance searched nearby trash cans, under cars and over the cliff but couldn’t find the purse.

A short time later, a Pismo Beach police officer arrived.

“We assumed he was there to take a report,” Dana Nance wrote. “As he got out of the car he asked if we had had a purse stolen, we replied yes. He then revealed from behind him my wife’s purse. You cannot imagine our surprise at seeing that purse that we assumed would never be seen again.”

Debbie Nance examined the purse and found all cash, credit cards and other items intact.

The officer informed them that a local resident had seen a man use a bike handlebar to break the car window and take the purse, search through it and then start riding south toward downtown Pismo. The resident followed him, and as they neared the police station decided to go there and make a report.

“A radio call went out,” Dana Nance wrote, “and as luck would have it an officer about to pull out of a parking lot heard the call, just as a man on a bike with a woman’s purse hanging from his handlebars (passed) right in front of him.”

The couple followed the officer to the police station to fill out a report, and met Bob, the resident “who saved our trip.”

“The reason I am writing this is in the hopes that Bob is still around and that he knows … we still think of him and his courage to step up and do something for a total stranger,” Dana Nance wrote. “If Bob is no longer around or with us, I want his friends and family to know.”

The Nances also took a photo of the officer.

When emailed the photo, Pismo Beach police Sgt. Steve Weir referred this reporter to Santa Maria police; there, Sgt. Paul Flores identified the officer as Detective Louis Tanore.

Reached by phone later, Tanore sounded surprised and amused to receive a photo of himself as a young officer. He worked two-and-a-half years for Pismo police, moving to the Santa Maria department in early 1992.

“I don’t remember too much about it,” he said of the incident. “The only thing I remember was a guy on a bike with a purse hanging off the handlebars — that sticks out. I appreciate them thinking about it after all these years.”

Cynthia Lambert and Gayle Cuddy write the South County Beat column on alternating Wednesdays. Reach Cynthia Lambert at 781-7929. Stay updated by following @SouthCountyBeat on Twitter.

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