Car theft suspect caught after being tackled by alert citizen

Nathaniel Herz

A 26-year-old man was arrested Saturday after he stole a car, drove it the wrong way down two major streets, caused an elderly woman to crash her car and then ran off through a neighborhood, only to be tackled by an alert citizen who noticed the suspect jogging past with a purse, Anchorage Police said.

Jedediah Smith was finally stopped near Lake Otis Parkway and East Tudor Road, in the backyard of Stephen Bauers, 59, who said he hit Smith and pinned him to the ground until police arrived moments later with a Taser.

"I used to wrestle," Bauers said. "When I get somebody on the ground, it's pretty tough to get me off 'em."

Smith ran from police starting in Fairview, near Karluk Street and Eighth Avenue, after an altercation with another man that led to him being asked by police for identification, according to police spokeswoman Anita Shell.

Smith had a felony warrant for his arrest after failing to appear in court on several charges, including vehicle theft, Shell said.

Smith forced a man out of his car and stole it, then drove down a succession of Anchorage roads, said Shell. He drove the wrong way down Bragaw Street and Northern Lights Boulevard, police said. An 88-year-old woman suffered non-life-threatening injuries when she crashed her sedan trying to avoid Smith, Shell said.

Police tried to disable Smith's car at the intersection of Northern Lights Boulevard and UAA Drive but that failed and they broke off the chase, Shell said.

Smith ultimately abandoned the car near the intersection of Lake Otis Parkway and 50th Avenue, just south of Tudor, and ran off through a nearby residential neighborhood, Shell said.

Bauers said he'd been watching football and had just gone outdoors and started gardening when he noticed a man coming out of his neighbor's garage with a tan purse tucked under his arm.

"I was like, 'What the heck?' " he said.

That was strange enough; then Bauers said he watched the man jog down his own driveway and go through a gate into his backyard.

As Bauers followed, he noticed a police car moving down the street and realized something was up, he said.

"I thought, 'Well, I'm after this guy now,' " he said.

By the time Bauers caught up with him, the man had stolen his bicycle and was walking away with it across the backyard, he said. Though Bauers is 59, he said he still runs and is in decent shape -- and he launched all of his 6 feet and 220 pounds over the bike and into the man police later said was Smith.

"I just flew right into him and gave him, like, a big high tackle," Bauers said.

Bauers said he got up just in time to see Taser prongs hit the man in the chest. Bauers had a gash on his shin and a sore shoulder but said he expected to be able to get back to work at a warehouse at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson on Monday.

As for how he'd spend the rest of the day, Bauers said he'd be back in the house, taking Advil and watching football.

"Forget the garden," he said.

Among the charges faced by Smith: robbery, assault, vehicle theft, resisting arrest, leaving the scene of an accident and four counts of reckless endangerment. The warrant was for failure to appear in court on charges that included vehicle theft and driving without a valid license, police said.

Reach Nathaniel Herz at or 257-4311.