FORT WORTH -- Dustin Alumbaugh and his three buddies were driving on West Berry Street on Wednesday night when a commotion in a parking lot caught their attention.
Two female TCU students had just left the Kroger at University Drive and were walking back toward campus through the parking lot when a man suddenly and repeatedly punched one student in the back of the head and grabbed her purse.
"Her friend tried to grab the purse, but the guy just yanked it away from her and jumped into a car," said Alumbaugh, 18.
As the red Ford Escort sped west on Berry, Alumbaugh turned his Chevrolet Silverado pickup around, and he and his friends -- 19-year-old Antonio Martinez, 18-year-old Dustin Yelvington and 16-year-old Johnny Munoz -- followed.
"I told my friends we needed to get their license plate or something or try to get them to stop," Alumbaugh said.
As they entered the neighborhood around Colonial Country Club, Alumbaugh flashed his lights at the Escort, and the driver stopped.
"I pulled up beside them pretty fast," Alumbaugh said. "I didn't want to trap them in because I didn't want to damage my truck. We had already got their license plate number when they stopped."
Munoz and Martinez began questioning the driver and his passenger.
"Johnny asked them, 'Did you take this lady's purse?' The man said, 'No, sir.' Johnny said, 'Are you sure?' He said, 'Yes, sir.'"
Alumbaugh said he had gotten out of his truck and was approaching the Escort to see whether the purse was inside when Munoz told the men: "We saw you take the purse. You need to stop."
At that point the driver, Alumbaugh said, turned off the car's lights and sped off, prompting the four friends to once again give chase.
The Escort eventually made its way back near the grocery store when the four men noticed a patrol car parked at a Shell gas station.
"Antonio was taking to 911. I was like, 'Dude, there's a cop right there.' I pulled into the Shell station, jumped out of my truck and told them, 'That red Ford just took off with a lady's purse,'" Alumbaugh said.
Based on the description of the car provided to police, robbery Sgt. Joe Loughman said, officers found the car, later determined to have been stolen in Dallas, traveling north on Hulen Street and pulled it over.
"Initially the vehicle stops. The officer gets out of the car, starts giving verbal commands and that's when he [the driver] punches it," Loughman said.
Loughman said a four- or five-mile pursuit followed. Officers spiked the Escort's tires, but the driver continued to flee until losing control of the car on South Henderson Street and crashing into the car of a female motorist who had pulled over on seeing the police vehicles.
The driver of the Escort, identified in a police report as Jesse Castanuela, 28, of Fort Worth, was arrested and faces charges of theft, evading arrest and robbery. The passenger, 29-year-old Cristian Jaimes of Granbury, is suspected of snatching the purse and faces a charge of robbery.
"Due to a cooperative effort between the good Samaritans and the police, the suspects in this case were taken into custody, and the citizens of Fort Worth will be safer this evening," Loughman said.
He said the robbery victim was briefly hospitalized. The driver of the car that the suspect crashed into was shaken but not injured, he said.
Alumbaugh said he and his friends, all current or former Paschal High School students, didn't think of the possible danger of getting involved.
"When someone hits a woman, that just really ticks me off," Alumbaugh said. "I was just thinking about trying to catch up with them, getting them to stop and getting the purse back to her."
Deanna Boyd, 817-390-7655