Lincolnton Fire Chief Mitch Burgin had just pulled into the parking lot of the Lincolnton Dollar Tree Wednesday afternoon when he heard a woman shouting that she had been mugged, he told the Times-News.
“I heard a commotion,” he said. “I opened my door and heard a woman yelling, ‘Catch him, catch him.’”
Shortly after, Burgin said he witnessed a crowd of at least six people, followed by a white pickup truck, sprinting across the Lincolnton strip mall parking lot towards an area gas station.
He later discovered the group was chasing an alleged thief.
Burgin said he immediately pulled his vehicle in behind the truck and pursued the action while relaying by phone to the Communications Center his location and what was happening.
A woman also involved in the chase confirmed with Burgin once they all arrived at the gas station that the crowd was chasing a man who snatched another woman’s purse in front of the license tag office on Center Drive.
The victim told police the man approached her and asked for a cigarette, according to a police report. While she searched for one, he tried to yank her purse from her shoulder, pushing her to the ground on the second try, police said.
Because the accused “purse snatcher” was wearing black in broad daylight, Burgin noted he was easy to identify and keep an eye on.
“That made him stand out and easy to see running through people’s backyards,” he said.
While the suspect climbed the back wall to the convenience store, reaching a nearby doctor’s office and fleeing toward Magnolia Street, Burgin said he continued to keep the Communications Center up-to-date on the situation.
However, it wasn’t long before the suspect stood in front of the fire chief’s vehicle on Magnolia Street.
“The chased him right to me,” he said of the persistent crowd. “I told him to stop, but he kept going.”
The man continued to run, scouring down an embankment behind Lakemont Family Medicine before reaching a roadway near the city bowling alley, Burgin said.
At that time, an officer arrived on scene, and together with the proactive citizens, apprehended the man.
“The officer and the group…had him pinned down,” Burgin said.
Officers charged Richard Scott Hunsucker, Jr., 28, of Gaston Street, with one felony count of larceny from person and one misdemeanor count of assault on a female.
While Burgin told the Times-News he thrives on being a public servant and was happy to assist area citizens and police in carrying out justice on Wednesday, chasing criminals is not his forte.
“I would much rather put out fire,” he said laughingly.
He also noted his contribution of radio traffic didn’t compare to citizens’ lack of hesitation to chase down an alleged thief.
“I’m glad I live in a town where there are some people that will look out for other people,” he said.
Hunsucker, whom police said was also wearing an electronic monitoring bracelet at the time of the incident, violated his probation and is currently being held without bond in the county jail.
Officers have since notified Probation and Parole of his arrest.