Odaybea Morrow was not going to let the culprit get away.
He had stolen a diamond engagement ring from her shop, so she chased him out the door and into the evening rush-hour rabble in downtown Washington.
Even after 54-year-old Morrow convinced the taller, younger man to hand her back the $4,300 ring, the clerk convinced a taxi driver to lock him in his cab until police arrived and arrested him.
“I had enough,” said Morrow, who has worked at Mia Gemma Fine Artisan Jewelry on F and 10th streets for four years. “I was angry. I wasn’t going to let anyone get away with this.”
She was tired, she said, of jewelry going missing from store shelves, as it had a couple of weeks before. “These are the kinds of things that put small businesses out of business,” she said.
The incident occurred Monday, and her account is backed by a police report and an arrest affidavit.
A man peered through the glass that morning, before Morrow opened the store. She told him to come back later. He returned hours later, just as Morrow was preparing to close and moving the jewelry from the display shelves to someplace more secure. He was with another man.
Morrow said the man inquired about a pair of earrings he had seen, and she said he apparently swiped the engagement ring as she had her back turned. She didn’t notice at first, and when she showed the man the earrings, he appeared dissatisfied. The men left.
Morrow said she then noticed the ring missing from its box. She bolted from the store. It was just after 6 p.m., and commuters and shoppers filled the street, heading to the Metro or to a store. Down the street is St. Patrick’s Catholic Church. A block away is FBI headquarters.
“I chased after them,” the 5-foot-4 clerk said.
At first, Morrow shouted out, “I think you got something from the store. Please stop.”
They ignored her.
Her voice got a bit more forceful.
“You’ve stolen something from me. Stop,” she shouted.
Morrow said a bystander called 911 as she continued to run after the men, who split up. She knew who had taken the ring, she said, and kept after him.
“Nobody helped me except this one woman on the phone,” Morrow said.
After about two blocks, Morrow said she got close enough to grab the man’s jacket. He stopped. They tussled. She yanked his jacket off. He grabbed her hand. “Take it,” Morrow said he told her, pressing the ring into her hand.
“Sure enough,” she said, “there it was.”
Still, Morrow said, “I wasn’t going to let him go.”
All of a sudden, she said, a group of youths, some riding scooters, surrounded her and began yelling and poking her. One gave the man his scooter, but he fell off trying to ride away. He got on again, Morrow said, and she pushed him to the ground.
The man jumped into a taxi as the youths surrounded her. Morrow said she convinced the taxi driver to lock his door and stay put until police came.
Officers arrested Charles Mobley, 58, of Northeast, who is charged with first-degree theft. His attorney did not respond to requests for comment Friday.
“I was tired of being preyed on,” Morrow said.