Santa Cruz City Councilman Ryan Coonerty saw a thief take a tire from a locked bicycle Tuesday evening and he and another witness gave chase during the dinner break in a seven-hour-long city council meeting.
While chasing the thief for more than five blocks, Coonerty pressed 9-1-1 on his phone and had a coterie of police officers join the chase. The suspect got away, but the officers found the stolen tire and replaced it on the bicycle without the owner ever knowing what happened.
"I was getting something to eat when I saw this guy walk up to a locked bike and take off the front tire," said Coonerty, 38, whose council took an hour-long break before 7 p.m.. The bicycle was parked in the heart of downtown, at Cooper Street and Pacific Avenue.
"He started walking away and then he started running," said Coonerty. He and another witness started chasing the tire thief, into and out of the Locust Street garage, past City Hall and down to the railroad tracks on Union Street, where they lost him, but found the tire.
Coonerty's Facebook page was filled with congratulations Tuesday night.
"We're hiring!" wrote Police Chief Kevin Vogel.
Community TV production manager Ryan Mulligan posted a picture of Captain America with Coonerty's face superimposed on it.
Analicia Cube, a community activist who started the neighborhood group Take Back Santa Cruz gave praise:
"Only in SC does our city council benefit from wind sprints and self defense classes. I also watched (Councilwoman) Lynn (Robinson) confront two tweakers in the park. She just got right up in their faces. Thanks guys!"
"I proclaim Ryan Coonerty Day," wrote Matt Twisselman.
"Only in Santa Cruz," wrote Paul Hood, citing a popular T-shirt in town.
"You should wear a cape," wrote Teresa Sabankaya.
Coonerty, who looks more like Clark Kent than his alter-ego, said the chase taught him a big lesson: he needs to go to the gym.
"I learned how out of shape I am." In his day job, Coonerty is an entrepreneur who started the office rental company NextSpace. "I was exhausted after chasing him only five or six blocks."
Coonerty said he calls police for problems three or four times a week. Earlier the same day he reported an intoxicated man outside City Hall.
"Most councilmembers do the same thing," he said. Last week councilwoman Lynn Robinson watched and reported drug dealing at San Lorenzo Park.
Crime and homelessness are big issues in this city of nearly 60,000. While violent crime is relatively low, much of it is centered on a homeless population that takes advantage of its tolerant attitudes and sees its downtown and river bank parks the way Mormons see Salt Lake City – as a Mecca.
The city's one murder this year occurred two months ago when a homeless man stabbed a downtown shop owner walking on a sidewalk around noon. It caused shock waves in the community and had many people questioning the city's tolerance for street people.
Last year showed drops from 6-23 percent in violent crimes including 24 rapes, 113 robberies, 343 aggravated assaults. Burglaries and thefts were up 15 percent at 568 and 2,603.
Coonerty found it ironic that the council passed its general plan the same night after eight years of work and no controversy, but the superhero incident will get this much attention.
"You pass all these policies and don't hear anything," he said. "But you save a bike tire and you get all this reaction. I guess it's that so many people have the frustrating experience of getting out and having a tire stolen."