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Passer-By's Bluff Leads to Arrest of Suspect

April 21, 1985|JAMES RAINEY | Times Staff Writer

Police called him "courageous." The woman he assisted said he was "wonderful" and "brave." But Steve Marshall said he was just out for a good time when he captured a purse-snatching suspect and then held off four other men, who police suspect were members of a West Los Angeles street gang.

Marshall, 33, was leaving a stereo store on Olympic Boulevard near the corner of Bundy Drive the evening of April 10 when he saw a young woman in the middle of Olympic Boulevard screaming that she had been robbed.

The victim's name has been withheld by police, who said the woman is frightened and may be hesitant to testify.

Two teen-agers had threatened the woman by holding lighted cigarettes to her face and then stole her purse, according to a Los Angeles Police report.

"That is when our heroic assistant, Steve Marshall, arrived in his cape," said investigating Officer Jim Cansler.

Marshall, a Beverly Hills private investigator, told employees in the stereo store to call the police and then jumped in his Jeep with the woman.

"She didn't think we would catch them," Marshall said. "But I fully believed from the moment we got in the car that we would catch them. . . . I said, 'This is good. This will be for kicks.' "

Three blocks north, in Stoner Park, the woman spotted the two teen-agers going through her purse, police said. Marshall drove his Jeep into the middle of a baseball game and began chasing one of the two, while the other teen-ager escaped with the purse.

When the first young man tripped and fell, Marshall jumped on him and pinned him to the ground. Marshall said he subdued the youth by wrapping a belt around his neck.

'He Just Had the Look'

Marshall, who is 6 feet, 1 inch tall and weighs 180 pounds, said it was then that he suspected that the young man was a gang member. "He just had the look," Marshall said. "And the way he talked, I just figured him for a gang member."

A police spokesman refused to release the name of the 17-year-old but said he is believed to be a member of a West Los Angeles street gang.

Marshall did not realize that Stoner Park is a favorite hang-out for the gang. As he held the young man against the wall of the park gymnasium, four other men surrounded him.

Marshall said he tried to pretend that he held a gun to the teen-ager's head. "I screamed at the top of my lungs that I would kill any of them who came near me," Marshall said. "Each time I screamed they backed off a little bit.

Marshall said he has been in his "share of fights," but that he had no defense or martial arts training.

"Then one of them screamed, 'Homie, he ain't got a gun,' " Marshall said. "That is when he started struggling again." The four men began to close in on Marshall, he said. The door to the gymnasium suddenly was opened from inside, Marshall said, and he was able to force the teen-ager inside.

The commotion interrupted a full-court basketball game and attracted a park recreation supervisor, who locked Marshall and the teen-ager in an office until police arrived.

The teen-ager has been charged with robbery and is being held at Juvenile Hall in Sylmar, according to Officer Cansler. The other suspect has not been found.

Marshall said that when police arrived they had a "stand-offish attitude" toward him. "They may have thought I was a hot shot, but given the same situation, I would do it again," he said.

Cansler, an investigator for Los Angeles Police Department's special gang task force, later thanked Marshall for his assistance.

"He ran after them not knowing if they had knives or guns," Cansler said. "What he did was above and beyond what we really expect. We do ask that people try to be good witnesses, but he went one step further."

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