DERRY TOWNSHIP, Pa. (WHTM) — Police have identified at least one suspect in a Hershey retail theft that turned violent as a shopper photographed the thieves’ license plate while they tried to get away.

It happened Aug. 20 at the Old Navy Outlet store in the Tanger Outlets Hershey.

One key piece of evidence — the photo of the Maryland license plate on the back of an Infiniti driven by the suspected thieves — helped the investigation, alongside video evidence from inside the store and other witness accounts.

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That photo, in turn, came from Sheri Engelhardt of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, who had driven with a friend to Hershey for a Rod Stewart concert that night. Having arrived hours before the show, they went to the outlet mall.

“We were going into Old Navy,” Engelhardt said. “As we were entering the store, two women were exiting, and there were a couple of employees by the door screaming, ‘They got the clothes! They got the bags!’” — thousands of dollars in merchandise, Engelhardt later learned.

Engelhardt said she approached an employee who appeared to be a manager.

“I’m like, ‘Do you want me to try to go get a plate number?'” Engelhardt recounted. “And she’s like, ‘Yeah, can you do that?'”

So she did that — followed the women as surreptitiously as she could and snapped a photo, using her phone, from behind after they got into the car.

But “I guess in the rearview mirror, they saw me getting the picture of that plate,” Engelhardt said. “So the girl came out of the car, and she attacked me. She ripped my chain off my neck. She ripped my bracelet off. She grabbed my phone. She was punching. We were fighting.

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“And then they kind of pulled me,” she continued, “and they were dragging me in the car a little bit. And then my friend and another guy grabbed me and got me out. My leg got caught in a door. I lost my shoe, and they pulled my arm,” which she said remains sore.

Along with her jewelry, the thieves fled with Engelhardt’s cell phone case — but not the more important thing inside it.

“She probably thought she got my phone, and she didn’t,” Engelhardt said. “The phone” — complete with the photo of the license plate — “fell out of the case.”

Engelhardt said several things surprised her, including the obvious: “I never thought just trying to get a license plate or doing the right thing, I would get attacked.”

But she said what happened next — or rather, what didn’t happen — hurt just as much as the thankfully-relatively-minor physical injuries she sustained.

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After staying to turn over the photo and provide other information to investigators, “I never heard anything back from the police,” Engelhardt said. “And you know what? Nobody from Old Navy called me.”

“Somebody goes out of their way to do the right thing — you know, to help you out. I mean, they didn’t even call to see if I was OK,” Engelhardt said. “I risked my life because you got robbed, and no one has the decency to see if I’m OK or how I was doing.”

She said she also wondered whether police continued trying to bring to justice the women who stole from the store and assaulted her.

Taking that last part first, Garth Warner, Derry Township’s police chief, said no need to worry.

“The primary investigator in the case has been working this pretty much nonstop,” Warner said Friday. “There have been several search warrants. They’re in the process of trying to get as much information as they can to develop enough probable cause to make the arrest.”

That laser focus on the investigation, he said, likely explains why no one thought to call Engelhardt after she returned home to Bethlehem. He said now that he’s aware, he’ll ensure that a victims’ rights advocate at the department will contact her.

The lack of a call thus far, Warner said, doesn’t imply a lack of appreciation for what Engelhardt did.

“The intent initially on her part was very, very good: try to obtain information to give to authorities without being directly involved,” Warner said. “Unfortunately, the involvement came to her.”

Spokespeople for The Gap, Inc. — which owns Old Navy — didn’t respond to two messages left for them Friday by abc27 News.

Warner said citizens should always do their best to help without putting themselves in harm’s way, which he acknowledged can be a difficult balance. And he said Engelhardt is correct to be thankful something worse didn’t happen to her.

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“There could have been another party involved — if it was one of those rings — that would have been out of her view that would have been able to injure her even if she was far enough away from these people,” he said.

The rings he’s referring to are theft rings such as the five people arrested Wednesday after a high-speed chase, who police say had looted an Ulta Beauty store in Lower Paxton Township. Police haven’t said whether the Old Navy theft was part of an organized ring.

When abc27 News showed Engelhardt mugshots of the Ulta suspects, she said they — although also from Maryland, where the license plate she photographed outside Old Navy was from — didn’t look familiar to her.

Someone who didn’t know any better might consider Engelhardt an unlikely hero.

“The past three years, I’ve been undergoing chemo,” she said. “So it’s, you know — I’m still getting over doing that. Getting into a fistfight, beaten up in a parking lot — it’s not something you plan on doing.”

But something she would do again.

“I hope they do get caught, and I hope it makes a difference,” Engelhardt said. “I hope more people stand up and don’t let people get away with it.”