Police believe that Diario Smith, 20, approached the elderly woman from behind in the 700 block of Fountainhead Drive as she was walking home from a store around 3:30 p.m. Tuesday and was carrying two grocery bags and her purse, police Lt. Jeff Tudor said.
Smith allegedly grabbed the woman's purse, which caused her to fall backwards and hit her head on the concrete, Tudor said.
The woman still had control of her purse while she was on the ground and Smith continued to pull and shake the purse, causing her to hit her head on the ground several more times, according to Tudor.
Smith eventually was able to get the purse away from the woman and flee on foot, Tudor said. The woman suffered abrasions to her head and hands, he said.
An off-duty parole agent who happened to be in the area at the time noticed the 79-year-old woman, a San Leandro resident, on her hands and knees screaming for help, according to Tudor.
The agent also spotted a man later identified as Smith running away from the woman, Tudor said. The agent chased after Smith but lost sight of him in the 14900 block of Inlet Court.
San Leandro police officers then arrived on the scene, set up a perimeter and conducted a search.
A short time later, officers found Smith hiding in a garbage can in the 14900 block of Peninsula Street. He was taken into custody without incident, Tudor said.
"The suspect in this case targeted an innocent, vulnerable, elderly member of the San Leandro community," Tudor said. "We are proud of the fact that we were able to get the suspect in custody and are thankful that the victim was not seriously hurt."