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River North Purse-Snatcher Chased Down, Detained By Witnesses

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CHICAGO (CBS) — A 44-year-old woman was grabbed from behind, choked, thrown to the sidewalk, kicked and robbed Friday morning. But thanks to two heroic witnesses, a suspect is in custody.

The suspect is identified as 31-year-old parolee Richard D. Mendoza. Police say he committed the crime only a block and a half from Chicago’s Magnificent Mile shopping district.

CBS 2’s Mike Parker spoke with the two heroes and Chicago police.

Kris Frieden of Carmel, Ind. and Chicago resident Michael Hochhauser saw the woman being attacked and robbed outside an apartment complex at 55 E. Erie.

“I screamed, ‘Hey! What are you doing?’ The guy looked up at me, grabbed the purse and took off,”  Hochhauser says.

The suspect sprinted toward Michigan Avenue with the two Good Samaritans hot on his trail. Another witness called 9-1-1 on her cell phone.

“He was going pretty good,” Hochhauser says. “I thought I would be fast enough to catch him, but he was a lot faster than I suspected.”

Minutes later, the suspect made it to Michigan Avenue.

“He was able to flag a taxi down and jumped in the taxi and tried to proceed to get away,” Frieden said.

But the two witnesses surrounded the taxi, blocked the doors and convinced the driver to wait for police. Within a minute, officers arrived and arrested Mendoza, who had been wearing an electronic monitoring bracelet on his ankle.

One of the arresting officers says the actions of the two men were “above and beyond.”

Mendoza’s rap sheet includes convictions for armed robbery, strong armed robbery and burglary.

The victim, at last report, was in stable condition at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, where she was treated for bruising and swelling.

“We came up to holiday shop and to see some things just around the city. We did — more than we bargained for,” Frieden said.

Mendoza was expected to appear in court Saturday, Chicago police said.