Alaska State Troopers arrested three men following the investigation of a brief crime spree that ended when a small-town resident chased down one of the alleged thieves and held him at gunpoint until authorities arrived.
The criminal jag began earlier this month.
On Aug. 21 troopers responded to a report of a wrecked Subaru Legacy in a ditch outside Tazlina, a small community comprising a few residential subdivisions and a business district, located on the Richardson Highway at mile 110, five miles south of Glennallen.
Troopers determined the car hit the ditch at a high speed, damaging the front and rear bumpers. The Subaru also had been vandalized and stripped of most its contents.
A check of the license plate found the car was listed as stolen three days earlier in of Anchorage, Alaska's largest city, about 185 road miles west of the ditch.
Then, on Aug. 24, troopers went to a Tazlina home after receiving a call from a local who informed them he was holding someone who tried to steal his car at gunpoint. When troopers arrived, the local man, Isaac Hofstetter, told troopers he had heard a noise outside of his home, grabbed his gun and went to investigate.
He reportedly spotted two men -- later identified as 18-year old Walter Blackwell and 22-year-old Xavier Aquino, both Anchorage residents -- inside his vehicle. One of them was allegedly trying to start the vehicle, but the men fled on foot when they saw its owner. Within a few hundred yards, the resident caught up with Blackwell, who had stumbled and fell while attempting to get away, troopers reported.
"After he fell, Hofstetter told him not to get up and kept an eye on him until AST arrived," said troopers' spokesperson Megan Peters.
At the trooper post in Glennallen, Blackwell allegedly gave a fake name and birthday. But during a follow-up interview, he gave his true identity. The teen has an extensive rap sheet and was wanted on two separate $500 warrants.
Further investigation resulted in the arrests of Aquino and a 17-year-old from Tazlina.
All three were charged with vehicle theft, multiple counts of criminal mischief and criminal trespass. The stolen vehicle, a total loss, was released to its owner.
Peters said Hofstetter had a right to protect his property and is not being charged in the case, though "(Troopers) encourage citizens to contact law enforcement and not take matters into their own hands."
Contact Jerzy Shedlock at jerzy(at)alaskadispatch.com
Editor's note: The preceding report was updated with additional information on Aug. 30.