Teens try to chase down a parking lot thief

MEDFORD — Three teenagers chased down and tackled a man who broke into their car while they watched a movie at Tinseltown Monday night.

The man pulled a pocket knife on his pursuers and escaped, but police found him hiding in a yard in the 300 block of Genessee Street a short time later. An officer arrested Patrick Kinley Curnutte, 35, and lodged him in Jackson County Jail on theft, robbery and drug charges, as well as warrants, Medford police Lt. Tim Doney said.

The three teens came out of a movie at about 9:25 p.m. Monday. When one of the boys opened his car's driver-side door, which had a broken lock, he found a man inside, rifling through his stuff, Doney said.

The man leapt out and ran south across the parking lot of the Medford Center, but two of the teens chased him, while the third called police. Two of them tackled him near the corner of Hawthorne and Jackson streets, but he broke free and kept running, Doney said.

They continued the chase, tackling him again. This time he pulled a small knife out, and the teens let him go. He ran toward the intersection of Sherman and Genessee streets, Doney said.

A responding officer found Curnutte hiding nearby and arrested him. Police recovered sunglasses reportedly stolen from the victim's car. Curnutte also had a pocket knife and a container with methamphetamine residue, police said.

Curnutte was arraigned in Jackson County Circuit Court Tuesday on charges of first- and third-degree robbery, possession of methamphetamine, unlawful entry into a vehicle and third-degree theft. He remains in jail Tuesday night without bail because of warrants charging him with parole violation and failure to appear on a weapons charge.

Doney said police were glad the teens could help officers, but want to make sure people stay safe and don't attempt anything dangerous.

"Our suggestion is to be a good witness and get a description and let us know where the suspect is headed," he said. "You never know if the suspect has a weapon or is under the influence."

Reach reporter Anita Burke at 776-4485, or e-mail aburke@mailtribune.com.

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