Off-duty cop thwarts Edgewater iPhone robbery

Tribune reporter

Spencer Meeks was walking home early Saturday on the Far North Side when a teenager on a bicycle grabbed his iPhone, but, thanks to an off-duty Chicago police officer and Meeks' reaction, the thief didn't get far.

Charged with felony robbery, was Jose M. Martinez, 17, of the 6200 block of North Wayne Avenue, police said. Martinez was ordered held in lieu of $100,000 bail Sunday, according to the Cook County Sheriff's Office.

Meeks, 20, who is studying musical theater at Columbia College, had just seen a play and was on his way home after stopping for groceries about 1 a.m. Saturday at the corner of Broadway and Granville, in the city's Edgewater neighborhood.

"I was walking down Broadway back toward my apartment and this kid rode up next to me on his bike and began talking to me and asking me for a cigarette," Meeks said.

Meeks replied that he didn't have one and Martinez rode away with a friend. A minute passed and the friend, also riding a bike, approached and asked Meeks the same kind of questions.

"He was trying to distract me, saying, 'Hey can I get a black and mild...anything?' " Meeks said. "He was saying a lot of things to keep my attention on him."

Meanwhile Martinez returned.

"He rode up behind me and grabbed my phone out of my back pocket and took off on his bike," Meeks said.

Meeks bolted after him, into the middle of the intersection.

"I tackled him and took him down off the bike," said Meeks, who said he had never been robbed before. "We were in the middle of the intersection and I had him in a headlock."

"I didn't think, I just ran, it was one of those fight or flight moments and my body told me to fight," Meeks said.

Martinez's accomplice fled and left Meeks and Martinez struggling as cars passed. "I kept saying give me my phone back," said Meeks, who started to worry about how long he could hang on.

It felt like "forever," he said, but within a minute or two, an off-duty police officer walking in the area saw what was happening, pulled the two apart and placed handcuffs on Martinez.

"He ran up saying 'Police! Police!' " Meeks said. "He had a pair of handcuffs. It was quick relief."

According to a police report, the officer was driving when he saw the incident unfold.

The officer alerted other police from his own phone and it was not long before other police, including Loyola University security officers, swarmed the area.

The 0ff-duty officer, who works out of the Grand Central District on the Northwest Side, went to the station with Meeks. They talked and the officer told him he was glad he could be there for him.

"I was very grateful," Meeks said.
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