ROGERS PARK — Rogers Park resident Mathieu Kouamé had just buzzed a package delivery person into his apartment building Wednesday evening and was going to pick up his order when he stopped to chat with a neighbor.
Then he saw a curious thing: Someone he didn't recognize was walking away with his newly delivered items.
In the stranger's hand was a box of Charmin toilet paper that had been included in a delivery from Target, and on his shoulders sat a backpack, which Kouamé would later discover contained other purchases, like organic snacks.
Kouamé quietly followed him from his apartment in the 1500 block of West Touhy Avenue to the intersection of Ashland and Greenleaf avenues, where the man began to flee.
A former rugby player, Kouamé ran after and tackled the man to the ground, slugging him in the jaw during the melee, he said.
Amid the struggle, the man was able to slip out of Kouamé's grip and sprint away. Barefoot, Kouamé couldn't continue the chase, he said.
During the clash, Kouamé said the man acted as if he did not know what was going on, but eventually he dropped the items before fleeing.
The backpack contained some of Kouamé's items, as well as clothing from Nordstrom, size small, and tools, such as screwdrivers. Later, Kouamé found the boxes that had contained his deliveries in the recycling bin near his house.
He described the thief as a man in his early to mid-20s, about 170 pounds, between 5-foot-9 and 5-foot-10 and sporting a small goatee. He was wearing a dark gray or black shirt, camouflage cargo pants, red basketball sneakers and had a large tattoo on his left forearm.
He filed a police report via 311 and began sharing his experience with neighbors, some of whom said they had also encountered the same man. Two neighbors had even captured him on camera.
Police said it was the second incident in the immediate area reported recently in which victims described a similar offender.
Last Friday around noon, a 27-year-old resident of the 1200 block of West Chase Avenue also filed a police report after noticing a package that had been delivered had been opened and emptied.
According to police, the victim said neighbors had spotted the thief — described as a white man about 6 feet tall, early to mid-20s — tampering with packages.
After being confronted, the man ran away.
No one is in custody for the thefts, and detectives are still investigating, police said.
It was the first time Kouamé has been the victim of theft in the seven years he's lived in the neighborhood, he said, though once or twice it has happened to others in his building. Despite the incident, he still feels secure in the community, he said.
"My guess is that he will avoid the general area for a little while, but we never know," Kouamé said. "I did see the fear of God in his eyes when I happened upon him."