Police: Teamwork nets a North Side purse-snatcher

Tribune reporter

Chicago police, a watchful cook at a taco restaurant, and the victim in a North Side purse-snatching combined forces over the weekend to recover the stolen purse and capture the man who allegedly took it, police said.

Ota Graham, 49, of the 10900 block of South Longwood Drive in the Morgan Park neighborhood on the Far South Side, was charged with felony theft, according to Chicago Police Department News Affairs Officer John Mirabelli. On Sunday a judge set bail for Graham at $35,000 during a hearing in Cook County criminal court, according to the Cook County Sheriff's Office.

An alias Graham also uses is "Johnny Cool,'' according to Mirabelli.

A 26-year-old woman was walking in the 3500 block of North Halsted Street in the Lakeview neighbrohood at 2:40 a.m. Saturday when she accidentally dropped her purse on the sidewalk, Mirabelli said. Graham confronted her from behind, grabbed the purse and took off running down an alley, said Mirabelli, who called it a "crime of opportunity."

But a 35-year-old cook at a nearby taco restaurant saw it happening and set off in pursuit of the fleeing robber.

"He was unable to apprehend the offender but he found her purse in the alley," Mirabelli said.

The 35-year-old cook may have found the purse, but two things it contained -- the woman's iPhone and her wallet -- were no longer in it. Using the Find My iPhone application, she was able to trace the location of her phone and called police.

"They (the officers) quickly went there and found him walking in the 800 block of West Sheridan Road," Mirabelli said. He was arrested shortly after the incident after telling police he had the woman's wallet and the iPhone.

No one was hurt, said Mirabelli.

Graham, who is scheduled to appear in court again on Friday, has been arrested more than 100 times for criminal trespass, possession of a controlled substance and assault among other things, police sources said. He was convicted of felony possession of a controlled substance in 2002, records show.


Twitter: @RosemarySobol

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