ST. PETERSBURG — Police are seeking the public's help in finding a man suspected of stealing a woman's car and threatening people with a knife.
About 5 p.m. Monday, Amporn Putagool, 52, was leaving her car at the CVS Pharmacy, 8001 Dr. Martin Luther King St. N. A man approached her and initially began asking for directions.
She gave him directions and then got into the driver's seat of her car, police said. The man then jumped into the car's back seat behind Putagool and put his arm around her throat. He demanded she drive him to the place he had asked about, 104 Avenue N and 49th Street in Pinellas Park.
She screamed and tried to break free from the man, who pulled her hair and continued to hold his arm around her neck.
John Porter, 63, was parking his car in the lot when he heard the commotion, he told the St. Petersburg Times.
"I heard a woman screaming very urgently," he said.
He went to Putagool's car and first thought it was a domestic dispute. When he saw that the man had a knife and his arm around her throat, he realized it wasn't.
He yelled at the man to stop and helped Putagool exit the car. After that, the man turned to him.
"He faced me with the knife," he said. "He brandished it not in the clumsy way, but the knife-fight way."
Porter remembered him telling him to get away and stay out of it. Then the man crawled into the driver seat and drove the car away, heading south.
The two then returned to the store and called police. Putagool had a sore right shoulder and some bruising.
Putagool's car, a 1998 green Ford Escort, was found abandoned at the rear of the Florida Veterinary Clinic at 8500 4th St. N.
Police discovered the suspect had been inside the CVS store before the incident and had bought two cans of Sobe, an energy drink, before going outside. The man then loitered in front of the store for about half an hour before attacking Putagool.
Much of the incident was caught by the store's video cameras. The man is described as white, in his 20s, 6 feet tall, with short light brown hair and tattoos on both arms.
Anyone with information is asked to call the St. Petersburg Police Department at (727) 893-7780, the tip line at (727) 892-5000 or they can text a tip at (727) 420-8911.
"Boy, did I feel sorry for that woman," Porter said. "All I did was walk in the direction of somebody in severe distress to see if something could be done. And what else? Maybe I saved her life."