Alert UPS twosome nab Purple Parrot gunman

Alert UPS twosome nab Purple Parrot gunman

A gutsy move by a pair of UPS employees Tuesday night might have helped Medford police close the case on a string of five Purple Parrot robberies stretching back to April.

Medford police Detective Sgt. Mike Budreau officially did not name Coleman Daniel Thorne, 20, as the man responsible for the spree, but there are several similarities to a failed liquor store heist Tuesday and the Purple Parrot crimes.

"We are out canvassing his neighborhood and are speaking with his associates," Budreau said. "We could at some point link him to these additional robberies."

Tuesday's robber might have escaped with a bag stuffed with money had Ryan Frost, 32, and Gordon Waite, 29, not decided to stop by West Main Liquor Store on their way home from work.

The pair were leaving the store with a haul of rum and Coke when they met a man wearing a black ski mask on his way inside, Frost said.

"He actually bumped shoulders with Gordon," Frost said. "We saw the mask and a bulge in his pocket and knew what was about to happen."

The men climbed inside Waite's Chevrolet Tahoe parked outside and watched the man pull a handgun on the clerk inside the store. He bagged some cash and was on his way out when they decided to act.

"We just looked at each other and decided to do something about it," Frost said. "I wasn't thinking about it at all. It still hasn't really hit me what we did."

They grabbed the robber as he emerged from the store and wrestled him for the gun in his pocket. He tried to fight them off, but the men were able to gain control of his arms and freed the gun from his pocket. They stashed it inside Waite's Tahoe until police arrived.

A few more bystanders joined the scuffle before two Jackson County sheriff's deputies on a traffic stop nearby arrived to force the robber into handcuffs.

Law enforcement later identified the robber as Thorne. He was arrested on two counts of first-degree robbery, being a felon in possession of a weapon, and a parole violation stemming from a vehicle theft conviction. He was lodged in the Jackson County Jail without bail.

He could find himself buried in additional charges if Medford detectives link him to the Purple Parrot robberies. The suspect in those crimes wore a black ski mask and brandished a silver handgun much like the one Frost and Waite seized from Tuesday's robber.

The robberies also were committed during times when Thorne was not lodged in jail. Thorne has convictions for vehicle theft and possession of methamphetamine within the past two years, according to Jackson County Circuit Court records.

Thorne suffered some bumps and bruises during Tuesday night's scuffle, though he admitted to police that some of the facial marks were caused by a bicycle crash the day before, Budreau said.

"It was very brave of them to take him into custody," Budreau said. "Our investigation determined they took appropriate measures while detaining Thorne."

Frost and Waite, who were still wearing their brown UPS uniforms, were glad to take a robber off the street. They hope police can link Thorne to the Purple Parrot robberies.

"I live in the neighborhood where some of the robberies happened," Frost said. "You just can't let people get away with that stuff."

After police corralled Thorne, the friends hugged each other and shook their heads in near disbelief over what had happened, Frost said.

"My wife said I was crazy for doing that, but she said she respected it," Frost said.

Budreau praised their actions, though he did acknowledge the danger in citizens apprehending armed suspects. He advises anyone witnessing an armed robbery to remember as many details as possible and to follow a suspect at a safe distance to alert police to the suspect's direction of travel.

"We were just glad no one who helped out that night was injured," Budreau said.

Reach reporter Chris Conrad at 776-4471; or e-mail

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