BY COLIN KRIEGER
A Columbus man will spend some time behind bars after he was captured shortly after robbing a female staff member of the Mississippi university for Women Wednesday morning. Terrance West, 41, was taken into custody after a brief foot chase through Southside Columbus Wednesday morning and detained on a preliminary charge of petit larceny. Authorities say the initial crime occurred just after 8:00 a.m. in the Welty building on the MUW campus.
Angela Ferreaz, Director of Major Gifts and Special Events for MUW, said she was working in the alumni office on the second floor of Welty when she walked in on West digging through her belongings.
“I caught him red handed,” Ferreaz said. “I confronted him immediately, because I’d been robbed before.”
Ferreaz told The Packet that just two short weeks ago, she had about $200 of her nest egg stolen from her pocketbook while she was at work. She said as soon as she saw West in her office digging through her things, she knew he was up to no good.
“I told him to stop, but he tried to leave” Ferreaz continued, “so I grabbed his arm for a second, but, he pushed me away.”
West wrestled himself free and ran like a spring chicken through the adjacent office with Ferreaz in hot pursuit. Ferreaz said the suspect scurried out the side door of Welty, and down a short flight of stairs. That’s when Ferreaz said she made her last effort to stop the felon as he flew the coop.
“I threw my cup of coffee on him- right on his shirt,” Ferreaz said. “But he kept going, so I just started yelling for help.”
The victim’s calls did not go unanswered, as a group of Resource Management employees were in the area and began to give chase to the suspect. MUW employee Napoleon Stevenson ran after West on foot, joined by at least two other bystanders and other employees. West was nearly surrounded and reportedly ran in a circle like a chicken with his head cut off
before evading capture and leaving the MUW campus via a nearby exit by the Stovall house.
Mississippi University for Women Police Chief Danny Patton told The Packet late Wednesday that West scampered West down 3rd Avenue South, jumping several fences behind at least four homes in the 900 block before temporarily disappearing from sight. MUW Police officer Randy Vibrock and Columbus Fire and Rescue Special Operations Chief Neal Austin were among the first to arrive, and quickly subdued West after he emerged from a home in the 300 block of 10th Street South right around 8:30 a.m. West was handcuffed next to a carport behind a home on the Northwest corner of 4th Avenue South and 9th Street and surrendered without so much as a peep.
Napoleon Stevenson, along with several other MUW employees, flocked to the scene just as the jail bird was getting cuffed.
“We got em,” Stevenson yelled. “Maaaaaaaaan, I chased him through those backyards. He just kept a’ runnin’.”
West was quickly searched on scene and sizable wad of cash was found on his person. A summary background check found that this bad egg was on probation for a prior felony conviction. Records at the Lowndes County Sheriff’s Office show two prior arrests, both in 2001, for multiple charges, including: two counts of grand larceny and aggravated assault on a law enforcement officer, as well as one count each of embezzlement and attempted escape. West was brought to the Lowndes County Adult Detention Center and is being held without bail for his probation violation. Authorities said West may be facing additional charges.
Just as west was being brought to jail, Columbus Police and Firemen joined MUW Chief Patton in searching for an orange and blue backpack that West reportedly had on his back as he fled( witnesses first descirbed the backpack as a purse, which seemed reasonable, as police were responding to a mugging-CK.)
Led by good Samaritan Stevenson, the team proceeded to search every property in the area in an attempt to find the missing bag. Stevenson reenacted his pursuit of West in great detail, bringing the authorities to each yard that West ran through. Officials got lucky while searching the backyard of a home at 924 3rd Avenue South, discovering the pack nestled between two fences.
“There it is, right there between the fences,” yelled Stevenson.
CPD Lt. Oscar Lewis joined Chief Patton, Stevenson and Austin in the backyard of the home, carefully navigating a brood of chickens that called the yard their home. Lewis carefully closed the gate behind him, making sure the yardbirds, or Gallus gallus domesticus, didn’t escape. Austin and Patton balanced themselves atop a pile of old fence boards and pallets and utilized two pieces of PVC pipe to pull the backpack from its dark nest. The bag was processed into evidence and the officials thanked Stevenson for his help.
“This was absolutely a tremendous effort by everyone involved,” said Patton. “Great cooperation between departments. You could not have asked for a better response.”
Ferreaz, who had returned organizing events for this week’s Wassail Fest when she spoke with The Packet, said she was extremely grateful for all of those who helped her, and she was especially proud of her University.
“You just don’t mess with the W,” she said.
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