Linette Kossow's Chicago apartment has been burglarized and her email hacked. Then early Friday morning, a man on the 36/Broadway Chicago Transit Authority" href="http://www.chicagotribune.com/topic/travel/commuting/chicago-transit-authority-ORGOV000082.topic">CTA bus downtown snatched her wallet from her shoulder bag and fled out the rear door.
Kossow hesitated for only a moment. Fed up with feeling helpless and preyed upon, she said, she snapped — and took off after the burly thief.
"I had a lot of bad things happen, and I was just done," said Kossow, 50. "I was just frustrated. I was tired of being a victim."
Clad in a skirt, knee-high boots and a full-length overcoat, Kossow ditched her bag and sprinted off the bus and after the teen at State and Huron streets. At some point, two bystanders joined the chase, zigzagging down streets and around corners. As the three ran by the Omni Hotel at Michigan Avenue" href="http://www.chicagotribune.com/topic/us/illinois/cook-county/chicago/michigan-avenue-PLGEOTMRM000001.topic">Michigan Avenue and Huron Street, someone called 911.
Twice, Kossow and the good Samaritans caught up to the thief and confronted him.
"I grabbed him and said: 'God wants you to give me back my wallet. Please give me back my wallet. I need it.'"
But both times he managed to escape their grasp. The entire chase lasted about a mile before they finally cornered him in an alley off Wabash Avenue near Superior Street.
Kossow said she again pleaded with the thief to return her wallet.
She said one of the two men who were helping her told the thief, "I'm homeless, and even I wouldn't take a wallet."
The thief was handing the wallet over to Kossow as police arrived.
"He had tried to go up some stairs at the back of a building but couldn't get away," said Officer Jose Torres, who made the arrest with partner Robert Michalski. "He was giving up."
The suspect was identified as Jenar Sanders, 18, of the 7200 block of South Coles Avenue. Bail was set at $100,000 on a charge of felony theft. His court-appointed attorney said Sanders is a senior at South Shore High School.
Kossow said the approximately 10-minute chase left her winded, but she never second-guessed her decision to go after Sanders, though he towered over her at 6-foot-3 and 270 pounds.
"Once I decided I was going to run, I was committed," she said.
After the ordeal was over, Kossow said she hugged the strangers who helped her — she identified the second man as a security guard — and gave them some cash out of gratitude.
"I could have never gotten him without the other two people and the police," she said.
In court, prosecutors said the teen was charged with misdemeanor criminal damage to property earlier this month, and has an outstanding order of protection against him.
Police generally caution against victims chasing thieves.
"The woman's lucky," a police official said. "She grabbed him. She was lucky this guy wasn't a violent guy. They had him in an alley without an exit. He's a fairly substantial man."
Reflecting on her harrowing experience, however, Kossow said she wouldn't hesitate to do it all over again.
"I'm sure I seem like a person who would never do anything about it," she said of the theft. "I just wanted to not look back and say that I just sat there because I've just sat there before. I wanted to at least say I tried."