A knife-carrying burglar got a lesson in vigilante justice early Saturday when a platform sandal-clad Isla Vista woman chased him through alleys, knocked him down and detained him until police arrived.
When residents at 6599 Del Playa Dr. confronted two intruders attempting to steal a laptop, a pair of sunglasses, a case of 80 compact discs and a bottle of Robert Mondavi Merlot, they chased the men in two separate directions.
Both suspects, Robert Gilley, 19, and Christopher McManus, an 18-year-old Santa Barbara City College student, were eventually arrested by Isla Vista Foot Patrol and university police officers. Both were charged with first-degree burglary, but McManus faces additional charges, including possession of drug paraphernalia, possession of stolen property and possession of a deadly weapon.
Tara Gerow, a 22-year-old UCSB water polo player and film studies major, chased the first suspect, Gilley, westbound on Del Playa after her roommate, Emily Sweeney, walked into the bedroom and found him attempting to stuff a laptop computer down his pants.
Sweeney, a UCSB business economics major, also gave chase.
“People on the street weren’t that helpful,” Sweeney said. “They were kind of calm. I don’t think they knew what was going on.”
Although Gilley evaded his civilian pursuers, IVFP officers later arrested him at McManus’ Camino Pescadero residence, where they also found a marijuana pipe with residue that they confiscated.
According to police, Gilley and McManus claimed they were invited into the house, but none of the residents remember letting them in. The doors of the house were unlocked because several of the 12 residents do not have keys, Gerow said, but several tenants were at home sleeping at the time they were burglarized.
Niki Carroll, a 20-year-old UCSB volleyball player and sociology major, noticed a second suspect emerge from her house holding his shirt tight against his waist, as if to prevent objects he had stuffed in his shirt from falling out. As she watched the suspect, McManus, she noticed a pair of sunglasses fall out from his shirt onto the street.
“He started running and I saw him drop a pair of sunglasses,” Carroll said. “That’s when I knew he had stuff from our house.”
Carroll handed her cell phone and sweatshirt to a friend and took off after McManus northbound on Camino Pescadero, Rocket Dog sandals flopping beneath her feet.
While Gilley shook off his pursuers in 1 a.m. DP crowds, McManus, who police said showed signs of intoxication, was unable to evade Carroll as he wove through an alley between two Sabado Tarde Road apartment buildings. The alley is blocked on one end by a three-foot wooden fence that had several bicycles locked to it.
Carroll, who stands at 6’2″, hurdled the fence and closed within 15 feet of McManus, who by now had dropped all the items he was carrying, except for the bottle of wine and a serrated knife with a four-inch blade – which he had also stolen from Carroll’s residence.
Tommy Rouse, a history major at SBCC, was talking with Carroll in the front yard of her house when she noticed McManus flee the residence.
“I see [McManus] sneaking down the street, and she starts taking off running,” Rouse said. “I was like, ‘shit, she’s going after him by herself.'”
Rouse followed and kept Carroll in sight until she entered the parking area of an apartment complex at 6582 Sabado Tarde Road. He said he started yelling her name as loud as he could to make sure she was OK.
Carroll said she lost the suspect when he rounded a corner in the darkness of the alley that leads to the parking area – but she heard a noise coming from behind a big screen television that was left outside.
“He was ducking behind the television,” Carroll said. “I told him not to fucking move.”
McManus got up and tried to flee, but Carroll said she punched him in the chest, knocking him backward into a pole. Had she known McManus was armed with the knife, she said she probably would not have hit him.
“If he would have pulled it out, I would have been like, ‘whoa, we’re cool,'” Carroll said. “But I thought I had it under control. He was pretty drunk.”
Rouse said that he heard Carroll answer his calls, and came upon her just in time to see her shove McManus back to the ground and kick him when he tried to rise again. It was at this time that he spotted a police car pass, which had responded to the area after a report of a foot chase. He flagged down the officers and pointed them in the direction of the confrontation.
“I felt like a cameraman on ‘Cops,'” Rouse said. “At first we were laughing about it, but it was funny and scary at the same time. [The officer] showed us the knife and we were like, ‘oh shit,’ but I don’t think [McManus] could have done anything because he was so messed up.”
UCPD officer M. Molitor handcuffed McManus. While McManus was led into a police car, police say he flipped off Carroll and tried to blow her kisses.
Once in custody, police say Gilley admitted to trying to steal the laptop. McManus also admitted to burglarizing the Carroll’s residence and several other I.V. residences. He agreed to point out items which he had stolen from other houses, including a bottle of after-shave from the Theta Chi fraternity house and a broken surfboard he took from a fence on the 6500 block of DP. McManus told police he derives a “thrill” from stealing, but he also told police he was remorseful and somewhat glad he was caught.
Molitor said it’s fortunate McManus did not injure anyone with the knife, but that it is a risk the public should not take – a point the residents of 6599 DP were lectured on by police the next morning.
“This is what we get paid for. We have the tools to deal with someone who has and is willing to use a knife,” Molitor said. “They were behind a dark complex with nobody around; the opportunity for him to injure her was there.”
But Carroll said she would have gone after the burglar even if it had been a larger guy. She said she never considered someone in Isla Vista could have a weapon, but she had confidence that people were following behind her to help.
“I told all my guy friends about what happened and they were like, ‘wow,'” Carroll said. “But some of them weren’t surprised. My dad was proud of me.”