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Attempt to steal car is thwarted

(ran SS edition of Metro & State)

After a man jumps inside a couple's car at a gas station, people in another vehicle block the car's path and detain him until deputies arrive.

The elderly couple was headed home from a trip to see the movie The Matrix when they faced a real-life crime drama.

Edward Litke stopped to get gas and left his keys in the ignition so his wife, Alice, could listen to the radio. While he was inside the gas station, a man jumped into the car and tried to drive off in their white 1990 Dodge Dynasty.

But thanks to some quick thinking by Alice Litke and the help of some strangers, the man was stopped before he was able to drive off and was held on the ground until deputies arrived, authorities said.

"My gosh, I can't believe this happened," Alice Litke, 71, of Madeira Beach, said Friday afternoon, hours after the chaotic sequence of events late Thursday at the Spur gas station at 23977 U.S. 19 N near Sunset Point Road.

The couple's new best friends, Aurelle Nunes, 20, and Terrell Martin, 21, stopped the assailant and then held the man while their companion, Jewel Thompson, 21, yelled at him, according to deputies and the Litkes.

Christopher J. Hayes, 30, of 2070 62nd St. N in Clearwater, was charged with retail theft, false imprisonment and grand theft auto. Hayes was being held late Friday at the Pinellas County Jail in lieu of $15,250 bail.

"It was just one of those things where you know it's just not right," Nunes said. "It wasn't something we planned. It was just instinct to help somebody."

Martin added: "I think we did our good deed for the month."

Edward Litke, 73, said he was grateful for them.

"If they weren't there, I don't know what would have happened," he said.

Minutes before the incident, Clearwater police responded to a report that a man was trying to pry open car doors at a Dunkin' Donuts across the street from the gas station, sheriff's Sgt. Greg Tita said.

Investigators believe the same man went across the street and asked three people in a car for a ride. The occupants, Nunes, Martin and Thompson, told the man no, Tita said.

Deputies said they believe the man then walked over to the Dodge and jumped in the driver's seat.

"Get out! Get out!" the man yelled, Alice Litke recalled.

The man tried to drive the car west toward U.S. 19, Tita said. Alice Litke tried to divert the man's attention.

"I asked for my (entertainment) book," she said. "I was trying to stall him until I could get some aid."

After paying for his gas, Litke walked into the parking lot and saw his car moving. He ran to the car as another car cut off the vehicle before it could get to U.S. 19, Tita said.

Nunes and Martin pulled their car in front of the Litkes' vehicle and grabbed the driver. They pulled him out of the car as Litke yanked the keys from the ignition, Tita said.

Nunes and Martin held the man down with their feet for about five minutes until deputies arrived, Litke said.

"We wouldn't recommend this," Tita said of the actions of Nunes and Martin. "But they saved this woman a lot of grief."