Hair-raising: Carden's Segway saves the day
John Carden knew his new gadget was traffic-stopping, but crime stopping? That wasn't in the owner's manual.
On Thursday, May 6, Carden, owner of the eponymous hair salon on the Downtown Mall, arrived at his north downtown home around 6pm following his short commute on his Segway Human Transporter, the two-wheeled electric scooter he purchased for $4,000 back in March.
As he stood chatting up neighbor Judith Mueller, the city's director of transportation, Carden had no idea he was about to put his toy to the test.
"She and I were talking," he recalls, "and all of a sudden I saw this young man walk by in a way that looked like he wanted to run but didn't want to draw attention."
A moment later, his attention was fully drawn.
Another neighbor came whipping around the corner saying, "John, stop that man– he just tried to steal my car!"
That neighbor declined comment and requested anonymity. Mueller did not return the Hook's calls.
Carden, used to taming tresses, not combing the streets for crime, says he reacted instantly.
"I did a 360," he says, "and took off after him."
When the thief saw he was being followed, he fled, with Carden in hot pursuit and yelling, "You need to stop! You need to stop now, man!" His shouts, however, proved ineffective.
"What's that gonna do?" Carden now wonders. "He's not gonna stop."
Clipping along as fast as 11 mph (the Segway's top speed and the equivalent of running a five-and-a-half-minute mile), Carden says he had the clear advantage. "If I'd been a policeman," he insists, "I could have easily caught him."
Catching the perp, however, was not Carden's goal: "I wasn't sure what I was going to do if he [did] stop."
He also might have worried about a crash, though fortunately he was somewhat protected.
"I was wearing my helmet," explains the courageous coiffeur, "even though it gives me a bad hair day."
The chase took Carden up Hedge Street to First Street, and then across High Street. He says the suspect continually looked back to see if his pursuer was gaining on him.
"He was completely freaked out because I don't think he'd ever seen a Segway before," says Carden. Adding to the man's fear, he says, may have been the "dork" helmet.
As he flew along at sprint speed, Carden also managed to call 911 on his cell phone, giving police his ever-changing location.
Charlottesville Police Chief Tim Longo says the department appreciates the hairdresser's heroics, but cautions others.
"Anytime you do something like that," he says, "you do put yourself at risk."
Carden says he was mindful of the danger.
"I think I acted appropriately," he explains. "If I had felt it was going to get dangerous, I would have stopped."
The chase came to an end at the Hill & Wood funeral home parking lot on First Street, between Market and Jefferson streets, as the thief escaped over a high wall, despite the area being surrounded by police in cruisers.
It could have ended there, but all was not lost.
During the chase, the suspect, Calvin Lorenzo Fauntleroy of Whitewood Road in Albemarle, dropped a cell phone, which the multitasking Carden had "swooped up." When Carden realized the phone actually belonged to the victim, he feared that the thief would never be caught.
He needn't have worried.
The suspect had made a phone call using the victim's phone, and police were able to trace the call. One of Fauntleroy's friends, who police say was not an accomplice, stayed at the scene to offer additional information. On Friday, May 7, Charlottesville police issued a warrant for Fauntleroy's arrest, charging him with "all kinds of larceny," says Charlottesville Detective Jim Mooney. Fauntleroy, who Mooney says has a "long record," was already in jail, however. Albemarle County police had arrested him for a different larceny earlier that day.
Fauntleroy is currently in the Charlottesville Albemarle Regional Jail awaiting a preliminary hearing on June 24. Because he has multiple felony convictions already, Mooney says "there's the potential" for a lengthy sentence.
Could we be seeing Charlottesville police atop specially equipped Segways sometime soon?
Chief Longo says he's looking into it, but that he still hasn't seen a Segway up close.
Now, he says, "I'm going to get down to try to check that thing out."
Even without the electric contraption, Carden says he was impressed with the police department's response.
"They worked really hard to get this guy in," he says.
For his part, Carden says the chase was "like something out of a movie." Or, perhaps, out of 1970s TV.
"I felt like I was living out a Charlie's Angels fantasy," he says, "like when Farrah Fawcett hitched onto a semi on a skateboard."
John Carden had a hair-raising crime chase on his Segway.
PHOTO BY JEN FARIELLO
CARTOON BY DON BERARD
Calvin Lorenzo Fauntleroy has been charged with attempted car theft and burglary for the May 6 incident.