When Ben Richards saw two men racing through Glaser Park on Saturday with what appeared to be a stolen handbag, instinct took over.
"My immediate first thought was to do a quick risk analysis," said Richards, 46, an experienced runner who has finished nine marathons. "So that's what I did."
"In a matter of moments, I reviewed what I knew: First, I could probably catch these guys if I wanted to; second, as far as I could tell, nobody was in any danger, these guys were just trying to get away; and third, I had no idea about the perps' state of mind and whether they were armed—and if so, with what sort of weapons."
Given all of that, Richards said, he knew exactly what he had to do.
"I stayed put," he said. "I've got a wife and two young kids at home. Why the f*** would I risk my life for something this low-stakes? Doesn't make any sense."
Instead of giving chase, Richards called 911 and gave the dispatcher a detailed description of the suspects and where they were headed.
Chief of police Damon Killian commended Richards' actions.
"This was exactly the right thing to do," Killian said. "Unless there is some compelling reason, it's never a smart idea for a citizen to pursue a 'bad guy.' What if they have a knife? Or a gun? You're really going to gamble with your life for, what—someone's wallet?"
"Call the police," he said. "Let us do the apprehending."
Elaborating on Chief Killian's sentiments, Richards stressed that he does believe bystanders have a duty to act—under the right circumstances.
"If someone's life is in danger? If (the suspects) are threatening to hurt someone, or even themselves?" he asked. "I would intervene then, of course. I think most people would. It's a moral imperative."
"But none of that was happening Saturday," he said. "Losing a handbag is a pain, for sure. But most of the stuff in there is probably replaceable. A human life isn't."
"I mean, use your head, you know?"