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Suspected purse snatcher preyed on elderly, cops say

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Darrel Cordes, 39, was arrested last week minutes after what police contend was his 15th purse grab in two months."If you see a lot of gray hair on my head, it's because of this guy," said 109th Deputy Inspector Thomas Cea. "It was just a matter of time before he killed someone."Shortly after his latest alleged purse snatching Jan. 7 on Kissena Boulevard and Cherry Avenue, police swarmed the area in search of the elusive suspect, unaware that he had already boarded a MTA bus driven by Courtney Granston, an 8-year veteran employee of the city's public transit system.Granston said he was immediately suspicious of Cordes when he got on the bus and started rifling through a woman's handbag while looking around as if to see if anyone was watching."I was looking at him in my rearview mirror and I saw him going through the bag in his lap and he kept looking up," Granston recalled. "I don't know, after a while you just start to get a sixth sense about these things."When he noticed police activity in the area, Granston decided to call 911 to alert the authorities.At Horace Harding Expressway and 164th Street, police cars surrounded the bus and heavily armed 109th officers and Emergency Service Units pulled up on all sides of the vehicle."Our 109 guys blockaded the back. Our subject tried to run out the back door of the bus and two of our guys pushed him back in," Cea said. "He figured he'd run out the front door and by that time our emergency service guys were there and he was looking down the barrel of a shotgun."Cea said Cordes has six prior robbery convictions that netted him 10 years in jail and was wanted in Nassau County for parole violation."No entity is perfect, but this (arrest) gets close to perfect," Cea said.Cordes, who allegedly routinely choked his victims in order to steal their purses, was recognized by other veteran officers at the 109th who had arrested him back in the 1980s on robbery charges, Cea said.Cea said that arrest involved a chase across rooftops before Cordes was eventually caught.In one of the latest robberies in which he is a suspect, police said the purse snatcher choked a 73-year-old woman so severely that she lost consciousness for several minutes.In another incident Cordes allegedly approached a woman in her car to ask her for a ride, court records show. He allegedly tried to sneak her purse out the window, but the woman confronted him, at which point he demanded her car keys, according to court papers.When she refused, Cordes allegedly said, "I have a knife and if you don't give me the keys, I will stab you to death."Police said Cordes did go as far to hold a knife to the throat of one of his latest robbery victims.Cordes was charged by with robbery, possession of stolen property and possession of a weapon, Queens District Attorney Richard Brown said. Most of his victims were elderly women, authorities said.At the 109th Precinct Jan. 11, Flushing elected state Assemblyman Jimmy Meng (D-Flushing) and City Councilman John Liu (D-Flushing) joined the community council to award the arresting officers and Granston with plaques for their efforts."You make a lot of arrests," said Officer James Schenker, "and when something like this happens, it's good to be recognized."Reach reporter Scott Sieber by e-mail at news@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 138.

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