A 25-year-old man who snatched a woman's purse from a stroller in Lithia Park Thursday was chased down and held by a group of mostly homeless men until police arrived to make an arrest.
Just after 6 p.m., 29-year-old Kathleen McDonald was pushing a stroller with her 18-month-old baby inside through Lithia Park when she stopped to get a drink of water from a fountain near the Butler Band Shell. While she was drinking, a man grabbed her purse from the stroller and took off running with it. McDonald ran after the man, leaving her baby behind in the stroller. When she got close to the thief, he reportedly pushed her away with his shoulder.
"I was out of breath so I stopped and started yelling," said McDonald, of Ashland. "These young men came and they tackled him."
Aaron Fletcher, who witnessed the incident, said several homeless people had just finished a community potluck meal at the gazebo in Lithia Park and were sitting near the parking lot on Winburn Way when they heard a woman crying for help.
"We got up and saw a guy running down the street and we surrounded him," Fletcher said. He said the man dropped the purse, which he had stuffed into his shirt, and tried to run, but another homeless man who goes by the name Will "Joe Dirt" pushed him to the ground and held him until police arrived.
Ashland police Detective Sgt. Jim Alderman said about four homeless people detained the man with the help of two people who had been driving by and stopped. Officers were at the scene within four minutes of receiving a call from dispatch.
The detained man, whom police identified as Micah James Farley, was arrested on charges of third-degree robbery and second-degree theft and was being held on $9,000 bail at Jackson County Jail Friday. Farley refused to give police his address.
"Nobody was hurt, and the homeless folks were proud of helping her out," said Alderman.
Fletcher said the incident is an example of how homeless people watch out for others and keep an eye on things that are happening downtown and in Lithia Park.
"We actually prevent crime," said Fletcher, adding that he was bothered that a woman with a baby had been targeted.
"She had to choose between being with her child or trying to get her purse," he said.
McDonald insisted on giving the homeless men $11 for their help, Fletcher said.