GEORGE TOWN –– New York police officer Ken Augsbach came to Grand Cayman to take a break from fighting crime. But when he spotted a thief snatch a woman’s purse on the beach, instinct took over.
He sprinted after him, across a road and into an overgrown area littered with broken bottles before hauling him to the ground.
The 52-year-old officer, on vacation with his family, was joined in pursuit of the thief by others, including a van driver who temporarily abandoned his tour bus to give chase. They held on to the thief until police arrived and arrested him.
“It is not good for tourism when someone does something like that, and I wasn’t about to let him get away with it,” said Augsbach.
He said he had been walking along the beach at Smith Cove when he heard a commotion and saw a man running from behind the tree line with a woman’s bag.
“It was an instinctive reaction. I wasn’t really worried for my personal safety.
“If we were in the water swimming and someone was stealing my wife’s purse, I hope someone would do the same for us,” Augsbach said.
He said several people had also given chase and helped him detain the thief.
“It was a group effort between me and that van driver and I was lucky to be the one that took him down,” he said.
“I think you could see from the way people reacted that type of thing isn’t tolerated in Cayman. It is a safe place to come and you don’t see crimes like that too often.
“I have been to many beautiful locations in the Caribbean, but you don’t get the same sense of security and safety anywhere else.”
He said the incident had not changed his opinion.
“If anything, it is one less bad guy to worry about.”
Al Handell Pearson, 42, admitted the theft when he appeared in Summary Court on Monday.
The court heard that the victim, a cruise ship passenger, had been swimming in the ocean with her husband when they spotted the man rifling through their things. They also gave chase and raised the alarm.
The court heard he had told police that he had not eaten for three days and had snatched the bag “against my better judgement”.
Augsbach, an officer in Suffolk County, New York, said he felt bad for the man if he really had not eaten
“I have been a police officer for 30 years and when someone is poor and hungry, I do feel for them,” he said. “I told him if he had asked me for a few dollars, I would have given it to him. I’m sure everyone on the beach feels the same.”