Nanaimo woman tackles break-and-enter suspect

Woman and her partner struck with rock while wrestling with suspect before police arrived

A Nanaimo woman is nursing scrapes, bumps and bruises while getting kudos from her community after she chased down and tackled a break-and-enter suspect this week.

Ashley Stevenson was in the bathroom of her home on Marisa Street, in Nanaimo’s Harewood neighbourhood, at about 3:30 p.m. Tuesday when her dachshund dog started growling.

“The dog was in there with me and he was growling at the door, but he’s kind of senile, so you know, who knows?” Stevenson said.

At the same time her partner, Joe Squire, was standing on the front porch of their home talking to their next-door neighbour when a young woman, carrying a backpack, casually stepped out their front door, just three metres from where he was standing.

“She looked at me and said, ‘Hey,’ and just starts casually walking down the driveway,” Squire said. “I looked at my neighbour and said, ‘Did that just happen?’”

The neighbour confirmed it had and Squire alerted Stevenson.

“We were both in the house and we believe that she also was in the house already and was in the office stealing all of our computers,” Stevenson said. “We were both upstairs and our office is downstairs.”

Squire gave chase in their car, but Stevenson started chasing the woman on foot. When she spotted the suspect coming out of a neighbour’s basement door, the pursuit was on.

“I just acted and I ran through six backyards and I hopped four fences,” Stevenson said. “I was wearing slippers. I don’t even know why … I just went into ‘That’s my stuff. I’m getting it back.’ I was taunting her, which is terrible. She started slowing down and I went, ‘Oh, no. You’re slowing down. This isn’t looking good for you.’”

As the women ran along the edge of a small ravine behind homes on Shelby Ann Avenue, Stevenson flagged down Squire, resumed the chase, caught up with the suspect again, knocked her down and then leaped on her.

“As she was falling, I just grabbed my backpack from behind and then threw all of my weight down,” Stevenson said.

As the women wrestled, the suspect hit Stevenson on the head with a rock. Just as Stevenson started to tire, Squire arrived and helped hold the woman, who was trying to strike him with the rock, until police arrived.

“We had her nicely gift-wrapped for them. It was a good day for them,” she said. “But they were wonderful and they knew her. Yeah, she’s known to police.”

Stevenson said she’s grateful for the the RCMP’s fast response and for support expressed for her by friends on social media and her neighbours, whom she’s come to know since the incident.

“My post on Facebook really brought a lot of people in my neighbourhood to reach out to me and we’re going to have a get together and a meet and greet over the holidays and it’s a reason why community, you know?” she said.

Stevenson also hopes the woman she caught will get help, now that she’s been arrested, to turn her life around.

According to police, the arresting officers found all of the stolen items.

Natasha Harris, 28, appeared in provincial court in Nanaimo on Wednesday and has been charged with break and enter and two counts of assault with a weapon.

“Good on these two for doing what they did,” Const. Gary O’Brien, Nanaimo RCMP spokesman, said in a press release. “We would, however, be remiss to not point out they could have been seriously harmed during the struggle.”

Police never advocate getting into physical altercations with suspects.

“Officers were responding and if they had simply followed the suspect at a safe distance and provided updates, the outcome would have been the same,” he said.

Stevenson has multiple bruises and had difficulty walking Thursday, but she had to retrieve the laptop which contains her university course projects and irreplaceable photos and memories.

“In 20/20 hindsight I probably shouldn’t have done that,” she said. “I should’ve just called the police, but she had my backpack, which had my laptop and my projects for school worth 40 per cent [of the final grade],” she said. “You can’t let that go. That’s your future, so I had to get her.”


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