When he hopped aboard a rusty beach cruiser Thursday to chase a suspect, Redondo Beach Police Department Chief Joe Leonardi had no idea he'd see his name in the Daily Breeze and the Easy Reader and himself on the CBS 2, KCAL 9 and Fox 11 news. After all, he was just doing his job.
"I think it speaks to the crime fighting efforts of this department," said police Capt. Jeff Hink. "It starts at the top of this organization, and I think it's a good thing when the chief of police wants to get his hands dirty … It says a lot for the caliber of the organization, I believe."
Leonardi was in his car in the parking lot of the Elks Lodge next to Veterans Park when he spotted a group of homeless men who looked as though they were about to come to blows. One of the men fit the description of the person who beat a city maintenance worker earlier in the week. Both men had a dark, rusted bicycle.
The man spotted Leonardi watching from his car, so he rode off on his bike, police said. Leonardi followed in his car as the man wheeled his way through South Redondo Beach.
When the man jumped off the bike and ditched his backpack on the Esplanade, Leonardi got out of the car to give chase. Realizing that the man was much younger and faster than he, the chief jumped aboard the suspect's bike and gave chase.
Officer Steve Sabosky spotted Leonardi, dressed in his customary suit and tie, racing after the man, and the two members of the police department managed to arrest him.
Police have identified the transient as Morgan Walker, 36.
But the story doesn't end there.
"The chief was following his bicycle tracks back to his car … and he came across this ring which he believes that the suspect threw when he was making his getaway," Hink told Patch.
The ring was a Cal Poly San Luis Obispo class ring. Officers discovered it had been stolen in a burglary in Hermosa Beach a couple days before, Hink said.
"The ring was inscribed with the person's name on it, which made it very easy" to track down, he said.
Walker was booked into jail on suspicion of possession of stolen property, obstructing justice and trying to evade an officer, Hink said.
Since the news broke, people have been joking about the incident, mostly because Leonardi told the Daily Breeze that he "felt like the Wicked Witch" from the Wizard of Oz, with his sport coat flapping in the wind and the bicycle's high, widespread handlebars.
Even the chief's son got in on the action. When Leonardi returned home from work on Thursday, his son turned on the Wicked Witch's theme song, he said.
Read all about it:
- Redondo Beach Police Chief Chases Down Suspect on a Bicycle [CBS Los Angeles]
- Video: Redondo Beach Police Chief Uses Suspect's Bicycle to Chase Him Down [Fox 11]
- Redondo Beach Police Chief Hops on Suspect's Bike, Chases After Him [NBC LA]
- Redondo Beach Police Chief Hops on Bike to Chase Down Suspect [Daily Breeze]
- RBPD Police Chief Chases Suspect by Bike [Easy Reader]