ST. PETERSBURG — Andrew Finley grabbed his wife's keys and flung open the door, his 21-year-old son on his heels. They were off to catch a criminal.
No, this isn't a tale of vigilantism or police training. But it did end with a thwarted crime and the recovery of a stolen truck.
Finley, 42, was at home with his three children and his wife, Kimberly, about 11 p.m. Monday when they heard revving, Kimberly Finley said.
"That's your truck," she said. "I hear it every morning."
Sure enough, Finley's dark blue 2001 Dodge Ram was squealing down the street, the thief grinding the gears of the stick shift. Finley said he jumped in his wife's van with his son Joseph, and they sped through St. Petersburg after it.
"My first reaction was, 'I can catch him,' " he said.
They followed the truck from his house at 1765 26th Ave. N through the neighborhood and toward downtown St. Petersburg, according to St. Petersburg police. Finley kept a close watch on his truck, pulling up behind it at a distance and talking through his moves with a 911 operator.
The thief got wise after a while, and he sped into a parking lot along Ninth Avenue N, Finley said. Finley, who is a press operator for Lockheed Martin, was straight behind.
They lost sight of the truck after they got stuck behind a car along First Avenue S, but by then St. Petersburg police had caught up with the truck.
Police said they cornered the vehicle near a trash bin at a gas station not far away. They arrested Herman Monroe Wilder, 48, and charged him with stealing the truck and driving drunk.
The Finley family later found out Wilder got into the truck with a spare key. Kimberly Finley said police had told her he'd jimmied open another car the Finleys owned and found a ring of spare vehicle keys.
When Andrew Finley got home about 1 a.m., he said, he gathered his family and prayed out of relief. "We're all just real happy nobody got hurt and everything was returned to us," he said.
Wilder is being held at Pinellas County Jail in lieu of $10,000 bail, according to jail records.
St. Petersburg police spokesman Mike Puetz said Finley did the right thing by following the truck at a distance without trying to stop it.
"This isn't common. Most people don't discover these things until after the fact," he said. "I'd say these people took the correct course of action."