GREENWICH VILLAGE — A young art gallery receptionist chased down a thief who stole three bottles of high-end booze, police said.
Richard Cabral, 21, was working at the Salmagundi Club, a nonprofit arts center on Fifth Avenue, on Jan. 11 when he discovered that a man he'd never seen before had stolen liquor from a locked cabinet, police said.
Cabral pursued the thief on a wild several-block chase, relaying directions to a 911 dispatcher the whole way, before meeting up with police officers who caught the suspect, the NYPD said.
"I think I would probably have done that in a good number of situations," Cabral told DNAinfo New York. "Anything that pertained to me, like if it was my job or something — I think I would have just done it instinctively."
Police arrested Joel McCray, 49, at Christopher Street and Greenwich Avenue, and found that he was carrying a screwdriver and three bottles of alcohol that belonged to the gallery: a $30 bottle of Ketel One vodka, a $43 bottle of Remy Martin and a $67 bottle of Grey Goose vodka, the NYPD said.
McCray was charged with burglary and possession of burglary tools. His lawyer could not immediately be reached.
Cabral, a junior at Brooklyn College, first spotted the thief while working at the 47 Fifth Ave. gallery's reception desk greeting guests before a weekly 9 a.m. art class.
Cabral was suspicious because he didn't recognize McCray — who was carrying a plastic bag and was accompanied by a woman — but McCray ignored Cabral's questions and headed into the gallery.
A few minutes later Cabral found McCray in the gallery's bar area and confronted him.
"He started to be really abrasive about answering any of my questions and letting me see the bar behind him," Cabral said. "I’m like, 'All right, sir, I’m going to need you to come upstairs.'"
But McCray took off, and Cabral said he quickly checked the surveillance footage and saw McCray jimmying open the lock on the club's liquor cabinet and slipping three bottles into his bag.
"After I confirmed 100 percent that that was ours, that he took it, then I went after him," Cabral said. "I just instinctively jumped out the door."
Cabral said he caught up with McCray just as McCray was getting in a cab, and Cabral jumped in front of the car to stop it. Shortly afterward, when McCray tried to get into a different cab, Cabral said he got too close to the moving car and briefly got his foot trapped under one of the taxi's front wheels.
"I’ve actually had worse injuries in martial arts," said Cabral, who is president of Brooklyn College's Tae Kwon Do Club. "So I was like, OK."
"But it was actually kind of annoying to have a car on my foot," he added, saying he declined medical treatment.
Cabral continued chasing McCray until NYPD officers stopped him at Christopher Street and Greenwich Avenue, police said. The woman who accompanied him had fled in a different direction and was not caught.
Cabral's boss was impressed by his quick thinking, but was also alarmed that Cabral had put himself in danger.
"We really, really do not encourage our employees to chase down robbers," said Chris Nunnally, 56, who has been the manager at Salmagundi for nine years and spoke affectionately of Cabral's devotion to the place in the three years he's worked there. "But you must at the same time recognize the supreme effort."