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Redondo Beach police chief jumps on bike to chase suspect

July 7, 2012 |  1:12 pm

Redondo Beach Police Chief Joe Leonardi was off-duty Thursday when he spotted a man sitting on a rusty, black bike in Veterans Park.

The man, about 6 feet tall and wearing a Dodgers cap, appeared to match the description of a suspect said to have assaulted a city employee in the same neighborhood earlier in the week and then fled -- on an identical bike.

Leonardi parked his patrol car to get a better look at the man, who was arguing with a group of homeless people.

“I just sat there watching them,” Leonardi said, “and anyone who knows police cars could tell my car was a police car. When he rode away, I trailed him a few blocks behind.”

The man rode south on Catalina Avenue, and Leonardi, who was on foot and wearing a suit, called for backup. When a patrol officer pulled up to the suspect, he sped away, winding through neighborhood streets.

Leonardi followed until the man suddenly stopped in an alley, threw down his bike and reached into his pocket.

“I thought he might be grabbing a gun,” Leonardi said, “but it turned out, oddly, that he was getting his wallet.”

When the man took off running, Leonardi jumped on the abandoned bike and pedaled after him. The suspect was tackled by another officer.

“My officers told me it was confusing to see me,” Leonardi said. “They thought, ‘Why is he riding a bike? For exercise? Why is he wearing a suit on the bike?’”

Morgan Wayne Walker, 36, was booked on a charge of resisting arrest. Officers found a stolen Cal Poly college ring inscribed with the owner's name in an area where Walker had sprinted through, and he was booked on receiving stolen property.

But the charge was dropped due to lack of evidence, Leonardi said. Walker, police also determined, was not the man who assaulted the city employee.

His court hearing on resisting arrest is scheduled for Monday.

"In the end, someone got their missing property back," Leonardi said. "And I got to play policeman for an hour or two."

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Congregants disappointed in Inglewood pastor accused of sex abuse

-- Danielle Paquette

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