Car thief cornered by owner in morning school traffic - WTVM.com-Columbus, GA News Weather & Sports

Car thief cornered by owner in morning school traffic

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COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) -

Police said two young men were cruising neighborhoods in North Columbus looking for unattended cars warming up in a driveway.  It's a criminal routine that is growing in popularity in our region now that temperatures are dropping.

But this time, things didn't work out according to plan.    

Phillip Eldridge started up his wife's brand new white Honda Pilot in the driveway of their home Tuesday morning, and moments after stepping inside from the cold air, he watched a young man get dropped off outside his house.

That man then jumped behind the wheel of the idling SUV and he sped away.  

Eldridge took off after him in his own truck and caught up to him on Double Churches Road.

"I followed him down through the school zone, and evidently, he realized the red pick-up truck in the driveway was behind him.   And he kind of sped up, but he really couldn't go fast because of the traffic," said Eldridge. 

The road was packed with the cars of parents dropping off elementary school students.   A fast getaway was just not going to happen.  

"I caught up with him right in front of the church across from Double Churches Elementary School, and he cut me off and hit the right front fender of my truck." 

But it didn't end there.   The suspect made it into the parking lot of CVS and fought through cars back onto Double Churches. But Eldridge was able to maneuver his truck to stop the fleeing car near the intersection of Whitesville Road.   That's where he confronted the suspect.

"He opened up the door and I pulled him out of the vehicle.   And he swung around..."

Eldridge said he saw the suspect reaching in his pocket for an object that could have been a weapon.  At that moment, he became distracted by another driver who was leaning on the horn telling him to move his truck.  The suspect took that opportunity to punch Eldridge in the jaw and run into nearby woods.  

Other drivers on the road were very confused throughout the entire affair.   Eldridge said they didn't know what to make of the situation until the end.  

"When they saw him get out of it and run, they knew that something had happened where he had done something wrong."

After the suspect got a good head start, Eldridge said a couple other drivers tried to run after him, but it was too late. That suspect got away, but his partner, Jacorey Smith, was coincidentally arrested that same morning after crashing a different stolen vehicle on River Road. Smith is the one who allegedly dropped the other suspect off at Eldridge's house.

Eldridge recovered his vehicle with minimal injuries and damage, but other victims in the area have not been so lucky.

"Stay away from people's stuff.   This is my stuff and I'm going to protect it.   But I do warn people, do not go out and warm up your vehicle without watching it, because they will steal it," said Eldridge.

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