SOUTH BEND — When a man snatched a young woman’s iPad in a Chicago coffee shop Saturday afternoon, Jose Capeles took off after him.
It didn’t matter that the South Bend police officer was off-duty, touring downtown Chicago, wearing nice shoes, or about to order a cup of hot tea.
“If you see something like that, a felony in progress, you have to act,” said Capeles, 28.
Little did he know the thief would lead him on a chase that would stretch for half a dozen city blocks and weave between pedestrians and several lanes of traffic.
Capeles had arrived in Chicago that morning, intending to relax and enjoy the city.
Around 12:45 p.m., he walked into Argo Tea, on North Rush Street, to order a warm beverage.
While waiting in line, he noticed a man enter the store who looked suspicious.
The clerk told him to leave, as he had apparently been banned from the shop.
“I was watching him the whole time,” Capeles recalled. “I kept watching what he was doing.”
As the man approached the shop’s exit, Capeles saw him turn to a young woman typing on her iPad, grab the $500 device, and run out the door.
Capeles, glancing at the blank stares of other customers, took off after him.
“He had a good clip,” Capeles said.
Soon they were separated by more than two city blocks.
Capeles hung a sharp left and a quick right, intercepting the thief, who thought he had outrun Capeles, on a side street.
“He was holding something in his coat with both hands,” Capeles said. “I said, ‘I’m an off-duty South Bend police officer and I saw what you did.’”
The thief, apparently shocked, broke free from Capeles’ grasp and started running again.
Capeles finally caught up to him in a courtyard at Holy Name Cathedral on North State Street, holding him on the ground and grabbing the stolen iPad from inside the man’s coat.
Chicago police officers made the scene soon after, thanking the South Bend cop for his speed.
The alleged thief, 18-year-old Danee Brewer of Chicago, was arrested and charged with one count of felony theft.
Later, the officers returned to the tea shop, and gave the woman her iPad. When she began to thank the uniformed Chicago officers, they pointed to the young man in jeans and a wool coat standing beside them — an off-duty cop from South Bend who had decided to help.
Capt. Phil Trent, spokesman for South Bend police, said it is not uncommon for officers to assist at crime scenes or car accidents that they encounter while off-duty.
But to do so in another state while touring a city and relaxing is rather remarkable, Trent said.
Trent noted that the thief could very well have been armed and the chase could have turned dangerous or even deadly.
Capeles said his police duties don’t end when he is off-duty. He compared it to a nurse or doctor performing emergency medical services when they encounter someone needing help.
After the incident, Capeles finally got his tea — a cup of chai, on the house.
Staff writer Mary Kate Malone:firstname.lastname@example.org