Saturday, June 21, 2014

Good Neighbor Saturday, 10/20/88

South Belt Citizens Nab Would-Be Car Thief

Some nights attempting car theft just doesn't pay, especially when South Belt area people get upset with a crime in progress.

On Monday night, Oct. 17, close to 10 p.m. Kay Fitzpatrick had just finished shipping for groceries at Randall's on Fuqua. As she approached her 1985 Suburban, she noticed a young man sitting in the driver's seat.

She hadn't brought anybody with her.

Upset about the unwelcome visitor, she approached the truck demanding to know what the young man was doing in her truck.

He claimed "It was the wrong car, sorry," then took off running across the parking lot toward Sabo Road.

Fitzpatrick as well as Randall's sacker Joe Ray went after the alleged car thief, yelling for him to stop.

Randall's service manager Kim Switzer noticed all the commotion while waiting for her boyfriend, Doug Kaufhold. She also joined the pursuit as did Kaufhold after he saw everyone running past his car.

"I never saw so many people get involved so fast, especially to help someone they didn't even know. I didn't like having to go through the experience, but I felt great finding out people still cared," said Fitzpatrick.

A few minutes after he tried fleeing the scene, the would-be truck thief found himself tackled then pinned down by an unknown store customer and Ray.

When 6-foot-4-inch, 250 pound Kaufhold arrived at the makeshift gridiron on the lawn of the Seventh-Day Adventist Church of Southeast Houston on Sabo Road, he gladly obliged to hold down the suspect. 

While all the tackling was going on Switzer called a friend who lived in the neighborhood she knew was home -- Pasadena Police officer John Noel. Bringing along his handcuffs, Noel had no problem locating the suspect, many of the Randall's employees knew Noel as a police officer.  .  .  .

Noel's experience as a police officer told him a second suspect was probably in the area. Most parking lot car thefts use two people -- one to drive, one to steal.

After handing the first suspect over to Ray and Kaufhold to detain at the back of the second suspect's car, Noel attempted to find out who the driver was.

"I knew something was up when the second suspect told me his birthday was 7/6/88; he insisted he didn't even know the first suspect. He had a screwdriver in his back pocket, another on the seat, and the car he was sitting in had a jammed open steering column."

Noel wrestled the suspect to the ground and the crowd encouraged the young man to stay there. Someone called the Houston police. 

While the suspects were being apprehended and detained, other citizens and Randall's employees watched Fitzpatrick's truck and her groceries. When it appeared she would have to stay and talk to the Houston officers, the store employees placed her groceries in a refrigerated area.

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