A South Los Angeles family chased down a man who allegedly stole a hearse containing their departed relative's casket, angrily exchanging words with him before police were called.
The incident occurred about 11 a.m. Saturday, as a funeral director was preparing services for 19-year-old Jonté Lee Reed at Ebenezer Baptist Church in South Los Angeles. Reed died Dec. 9 after being shot in South Park, according to Los Angeles County coroner's records.
Shirley Little, wife of pastor Kenneth Little, said the funeral director had left the hearse idling as he arranged flowers inside the church at 4901 Avalon Boulevard.
When he went outside to collect the casket, he noticed that the black hearse was missing, she said. Devastated, he immediately called a group of ministry friends to help track down the missing car, she said.
Meanwhile, family members driving to the funeral had been notified of the theft and saw a hearse passing them near 52nd and Main streets, about four blocks from the Baptist church. They made the driver pull over and began angrily arguing with him, Little said.
Police were called and the man was taken into custody, according to a report by KTLA-5. Police told the station that the man would be charged with auto theft and have his mental condition evaluated.
Little said the hearse and casket were returned to the church a short time later and the funeral services took place. The body did not appear to be disturbed, she said.
"Even with all of that occurring, the service for this gentleman was only 30 minutes late and it was nice,'' she said.
She said that in the 75-year history of the church no one could recall a similar heist. "This is truly one for the books,'' she said.