Alleged purse snatcher gets snatched by chance in traffic |

Alleged purse snatcher gets snatched by chance in traffic

EL JEBEL ” The commute on Highway 82 can be frustrating, particularly for those trying to elude police.

A man accused of nabbing two purses at the El Jebel City Market on Monday slipped from the clutch of a security guard, managed to outrun store employees on a foot chase through an adjacent subdivision, then seemed to make a clean break in his pickup, according to Basalt Police Chief Keith Ikeda.

But a chance encounter with the store manager in slow-going traffic 20 miles away in Glenwood Springs led to the alleged thief’s capture, Ikeda said. The man accused of stealing two purses from shopping carts was identified as Justin M. Flesch, 25. Ikeda said Flesch claimed to be a transient, but police found evidence he might be living in New Castle.

The strange sequence of events in the case began unfolding at about 4:40 p.m. Monday when a security guard monitoring cameras at City Market allegedly saw Flesch nab a purse while the owner had her back to her cart, according to the police report. He went to the next aisle, checked the contents and flung the purse onto a shelf when he found only makeup, Ikeda said.

As the man snatched another purse from an unsuspecting shopper, the security guard contacted Flesch and detained him in an office. As the guard and another store employee conferred, Flesch allegedly made a break for freedom by dashing out an open door and running out of the store with employees in pursuit. The chase led them into Sopris Village subdivision, then Flesch doubled back and fled in a black pickup with Arizona license plates.

Ikeda said the manager of the City Market passed through Glenwood Springs on his commute home and saw that same pickup in front of him in traffic. The manager called the security guard, who called a Basalt officer. Authorities in Glenwood Springs were contacted, and Flesch was stopped. He was detained on a warrant for a traffic violation, and Glenwood police also discovered the plates weren’t registered for that vehicle.

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Basalt police obtained an arrest warrant for two felony counts of theft from a person. Ikeda said Flesch will likely be transferred to the Eagle County jail.