NEW YORK -- After her husband had been knocked out of his wheelchair and robbed of his video camera, and after her son had chased after the thief, all Paulette Pastre could scream was, "Parlez-vous francais?"
Fortunately for Pastre, a French tourist on the final day of a weeklong vacation in New York City, a police car happened to be passing by. And fortunately, Officer Samuel Joseph-Pauline happened to be inside.
"Oui," said Joseph-Pauline, a nine-year police veteran whose parents came to this country from Martinique and who grew up speaking French.
Pastre told Joseph-Pauline how she and her husband had spent a week in Guadeloupe and had come to New York last week for a rendezvous with their son, who lives in Chicago, and how the thief had grabbed the camera from her husband.
"She was hysterical, telling me the last part first, the first part last," Joseph-Pauline said. But he understood.
She climbed into his police car and they sped off in search of Mrs. Pastre's son, Joel, 28. People on the street directed them to a vacant lot several blocks away. Joseph-Pauline said they saw the son, covered with blood.
A police spokeswoman, Sgt. Grace Ridley, said the suspect had lobbed a brick at Joel Pastre, hitting him on the left side of the head. Then the suspect hurdled a fence, dropping the video camera as he went over.
A crowd on the street cornered the suspect until Joseph-Pauline arrived and made the arrest.