With a set of First Avenue tickets in their purses, Ali Wallace and Julia MacDonald pulled up to the Loop Parking lot on Hennepin Avenue on Tuesday night. A parking attendant approached their car — the ticket machine was broken, he claimed. If they just gave him $20, he'd let them through the gate.
Wallace didn't think twice. The man pocketed the cash, turned heel, and started walking down the sidewalk.
"Hey!" she called, springing out of the driver's seat. "He just stole my money! Somebody stop him!"
People stared, but nobody moved to help, Wallace recalls.
Then, a young homeless man charged up behind her, dumped a backpack and a duffle bag at her feet, and barked at her to stay with his stuff. Next thing she knew, he started running after the thief.
The hunt took the two across Seventh Avenue, then back and forth across Hennepin. At the light rail station at Fifth Street, the homeless youth yelled at onlookers crowding the block to point the crook out to nearby police. A cop joined chase.
When the two finally caught up, the thief was arrested, a crack pipe lifted out of one pocket. The homeless man gave his name as Don Turner. He'd just left from a barbeque hosted by downtown shelter Youthlink when he heard Wallace screaming, he said.
Keith Norberg, a manager with Loop Parking Company, came out to thank the homeless man after he returned to the Hennepin lot. Scammers posing as parking attendants were far too common, he says. But it's not everyday that strangers give them so much trouble.
"Downtown they carry guns, they carry knives, they carry everything," Norberg says. "I gave him my business card and told him if he was looking for a job to look me up."
In the end, Wallace and MacDonald had an extra ticket for that First Avenue concert, Irish rockers Kodaline. They asked Turner to join them for the show, and when they parted ways they slipped him the $20 he'd helped recover.