Most purse snatchings attract hardly a second glance these days, but when a man snatched Kathy Tollerton's purse around noon yesterday near Washington Cathedral, five cars, one bicyclist and the church provost took off after the man--and caught him.
"My husband and I were walking east on Woodley Road after attending church at cathedral," said Tollerton, who lives near the church in Northwest. "Then I felt somebody come behind me, and that guy snatched my shoulder bag and started running. I was yelling, 'He's got my purse,' and my husband ran after him."
"Then I thought about all those credit cards I'd have to replace," she said, "and started running after him too."
In short order, the commotion attracted the attention of bicyclist Lewis Regenstein, a host of other citizens and the Rev. Charles A. Perry, provost of Washington Cathedral, who was stuck in traffic on 34th Street, which intersects Woodley nearby.
Regenstein shifted his 10-speed bicycle into high gear and took off east down Woodley after the purse snatcher, while Perry picked up the winded Tollertons--Kathy and her husband Harry--in his brown Mercedes and followed in hot pursuit.
Four other drivers also joined in the chase, honking their horns and flashing their lights to draw attention to the thief. As they began to close in, the man jettisoned the stolen purse, but the caravan of cars and the bicyclist maintained pursuit, pulled even with him and at several points cornered him while he caught his breath.
After a 30-minute, 14-block chase through the neighborhood, the posse brought the panting suspect to bay near Connecticut Avenue and Woodley Road, and a policeman hailed by one of the pursuers took him into custody.
Police later charged a man identified as Iman A. Dasouza, 22, of no known address, with robbery in the incident.
"He wasn't in very good shape, he kept getting winded," said Lewis Regenstein, the bicyclist who came the closest to apprehending the man during the chase. "His second problem was that he stayed [running] on the sidewalk the whole time we were chasing him," instead of ducking into alleys or wooded areas.
This community is very concerned about crime and we have a crime watch in the cathedral community," said Perry. "I think the purse snatcher was scared. He probably didn't expect all of this to happen."