Still angry about a recent car break-in at his Top of the World home, web marketing entrepreneur Michael Beresford was not about to be victimized a second time.
Leaving NetScope Inc.’s Coast Highway office about 6:30 p.m. for an underground parking structure, Beresford last month came upon a flashlight’s shaft illuminating the cabin of his Jeep and unmistakable telltale legs dangling outside the sunroof.
“Adrenalin takes over,” recalled Beresford, 42, who jumped on the running board and grabbed the intruder by the waist, heaving him out of the Jeep. “It’s not like me to do this. It didn’t seem real.”
Unbelievably, the thief mumbled that he dropped his flashlight in the car.
“Then why are you holding all my stuff?” retorted Beresford, who smacked the thief’s hands, scattering $2,900 worth of his possessions across the garage floor.
“Get the hell out of here,” yelled Beresford. He knew a call for help was impossible in the structure’s cell-service blocking, subterranean second level. As he stooped to pluck up his belongings, Beresford kept an eye on the direction of the suspected car burglar. “When he took off, I assumed he was on foot,” he said.
Making his exit through a gate reserved for tenants as he called police, Beresford circled the block in his Jeep without success, hunting for a man he thought was in his 20s and on the run. He circled back to the parking structure. Inside, Beresford spotted the man he had just confronted, now behind the wheel of a car and temporarily barricaded because the driver was trying to flee from the key-operated tenant’s exit.
Beresford took up the chase again from the visitor’s exit, following the vehicle as it gunned up Oak Street at 70 m.p.h. A 20-year resident and familiar with the neighborhood filled with skateboarding kids, Beresford backed off, fearful of contributing to a potential human tragedy even while providing pursuing police a vehicle description. He reached the street’s dead end at Temple Terrace, spying his quarry reverse direction two blocks away by turning south on Cress Street.
Police swarming the area soon stopped a car driven by Sol Langlois Risley, 35, of Laguna Beach, as he attempted to turn north on Coast Highway at Oak Street.
“They didn’t tell me much,” Beresford said of police, who directed him to the scene to identify the handcuffed man. “He’s looking at me, saying ‘I’m sorry, bro’.”
The experience wasn’t altogether new to Beresford. While attending the University of Arizona, he ran down and apprehended a peeping tom. Beresford remained in Tucson after graduation, working as an IBM software developer before returning to where he grew up. He settled in Laguna, establishing Netscope 15 years ago.
While Beresford appreciates the humor of surprising a thief in the act, the incident has left him with mixed emotions, especially since he’s received a summons to testify at a preliminary hearing set for June 14. “Now, I feel like I’ve got to stand up; it’s my civic duty to make sure he’s not out there doing it to someone else,” he said.
His wife Allison is less amused. “I could have got my ass beat or shot,” he admitted.
For Risley, who this week entered a not guilty plea to burglary and attempted grand theft charges in the Thursday, April 19, incident, the new allegations represent a third strike. He previously pled guilty to burglary in 2010 and 2008, receiving one-year and two-year jail sentences, respectively, according to county court records. Risley entered guilty pleas to various drug charges beginning in 2003.
“He’s lived here many years. We’ve arrested him a number of times,” said Lt. Jason Kravetz.
Since learning of Beresford’s perseverance in contributing to Risley’s capture, his friends have deluged him with their own stories about car break-ins, often provoked by visible valuables. “I had nothing in plain sight,” said Beresford, who nevertheless has changed one of his habits.
“I don’t park down there anymore.”