PATERSON, NJ – Jim Woodmancey gets paid to sweep the streets of downtown Paterson. On Tuesday evening, he helped clean up some city crime.
After seeing a screaming 56-year-old woman being dragged on the ground by a man trying to steal her purse on Market Street near City Hall, Woodmancey intervened, pursuing the suspect in a bizarre chase that included a brief ride in a city taxi and a search through a Passaic County Community College building before it ended in a pile of bodies on Memorial Drive.
Woodmancey and another hero, a 35-year-old Clifton man whose name authorities would not release, apprehended the robber on Memorial Parkway, near the city health division offices. What Woodmancey didn’t know when he began his pursuit was that the suspect had a gun. But, he said, that wouldn’t have stopped him.
“The lady was there with her head on the ground, if stood there and did nothing, how do I account for myself?’’ said Woodmancey, a 54-year-old Wayne resident who works in maintenance for the Downtown Paterson Special Improvement District.
Authorities commended Woodmancey and the other man for their efforts. “Citizens are frustrated with crime and we’re seeing more and more people getting involved in assisting police,’’ said Paterson Police Lt. Richard Reyes. “We always tell people you should be careful especially when the suspect is armed. But these guys did a great job and I want to applaud them.’’
Arrested and charged with robbery and weapons offenses was 41-year-old Jesus DeJesus, 41, of 371 Madison Avenue, said Reyes said. DeJesus has been in trouble with the law before. State corrections record show he served two years in prison from 2004 to 2006 for selling drugs and making terroristic threats.
Reyes also credited the county college security staff for their assistance as well as the two city police officers who made the arrest, Michael Quinones and James Durkin. Authorities said DeJesus no longer had the gun on him when he was caught. But the woman’s purse was recovered somewhere along the chase route.
Woodmancey said he was working on Market Street, near the McDonalds, at about 4:30 pm when he heard the woman scream and saw her being dragged on the ground as she held on to her purse. He chased DeJesus, who had made off with the purse, down Church Street to Ellison Street.
Along the way, Woodmancey said, a taxi driver transporting a fare called and offered a ride in pursuit of the suspect. At the suggestion of the woman in the cab, Woodmancey said he called 911 for help.
The taxi had barely traveled 50 feet when Woodmancey spotted the suspect near the county college, so he hopped out of the vehicle and ran after him, he said.
The suspect and his pursuer ran into and through one of the buildings, emerging back outside on College Boulevard, Woodmancey said. For a moment, the suspect tried to hide beneath a car, but a woman nearby called out the man’s location, he said. The suspect got up and started running again, according to Woodmancey.
At that point, Woodmancey said he realized he had help. A big burley man had circled around the outside of the college and was waiting for the alleged purse-snatcher on Memorial Drive. The other man tackled the suspect first, Woodmancey said, and then he joined in.
“He realized he was caught and he was doing anything he could to get away,’’ said Woodmancey.
Woodmancey said he was braced on top of the suspect when his phone rang. It was the operator from 911 following up on his previous call. “The tapes of that call are probably pretty funny,’’ he said.