Postal Service justice

Clerk pursues mail thieves, gets license plate number for police

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SHAWN GUST/Press Randy Craig, a clerk with the United State Postal Service, helps a customer at the Coeur d'Alene post office on Tuesday. Craig is responsible for following and reporting to police a pair of mail thieves late Friday night.

COEUR d'ALENE - When Randy Craig looked out the window of his Coeur d'Alene home and saw people stealing mail, he wanted justice for the beleaguered Postal Service.

So the 35-year post office employee went out and got it.

Never mind that he was wearing only pajama bottoms - no shirt, no shoes - when he rushed to his car to pursue the suspects late Friday. Never mind that he didn't even have a cell phone as he followed the strangers on Mountain Vista Drive and Dalton Avenue.

"I was upset these guys were doing this," he said Tuesday during a brief break from work at the Coeur d'Alene post office. "It more upset me, than anything."

He was determined, too, because of a recent rash of mail thefts that were reported in The Press.

"These guys were stealing mail. It's giving us a bad name," he said. "In my eyes, I'm going out for justice for the post office."

It was just before midnight Friday when the family's labradoodle, Decker, began barking. So Craig peeked outside and saw a car with two people inside. They were driving slowly, stopping, and checking mailboxes in search of scoring some Christmas cash inside cards.

"Once the dog woofed I heard the vehicle out there. I started hearing boxes slamming, one after the other," he said. "I got up, looked out and sure enough, someone was looking through the mail."

Craig, fearing they might get away, grabbed his car keys, not even taking time to dress.

"I told my wife I was going to go get them and I'd be back," he said, chuckling. "Unfortunately I only had my pajama bottoms on."

He left the headlights off as he followed. His wife watched as the suspect car passed by their home, followed by her bare-chested husband in his car.

"She said it looked like something out of a movie," Craig said, grinning.

He rolled up behind the suspects near more mailboxes. He wasn't looking for a confrontation, but did want a license number and vehicle description.

"That's all I was really worried about," he said. "Get the license number and let the police do the work."

The thieves didn't notice Craig, who memorized the license number, then turned on his headlights.

Now they saw him.

"Once they realized I was behind them, they took off running," he said.

The Jeep-type vehicle sped up, hitting ice and spinning out. The driver eventually turned into a cul de sac, so Craig stopped and waited for them to come out. When they did, he hit his brights, and again the suspects gunned it, this time finding their way to Dalton, where they reached speeds of up to 80 mph.

As they drove, the driver and passenger began tossing items out the windows, perhaps trying to ditch evidence.

"I think they thought I was the police," Craig said.

Craig, worried someone might get hurt, ended the 10 to 15-minute chase.

"That was enough. I was really afraid they could run a stop sign and hit somebody," he said. "It wasn't worth that."

He returned home and called police, who soon arrived and said they had arrested the suspects.

And that made for a nice Christmas gift.

"It was just nice to be able to bring some justice for the postal service," Craig said.

He said he never worried about his own safety. So mad was he that there was no time to be scared.

"That's the weirdest thing, I was so jacked up on adrenaline," he said, then adding with a laugh, "I'm not sure quite what I would have done if they would have stopped."

Craig takes mail theft personally. He doesn't like it when customers say a package never arrived, and they believe it was stolen. He doesn't like to read about mail theft in the newspaper.

If he has a chance to stop it, like he did Friday, he will.

Even if it means doing so with hardly any clothes on.

"What better post office present than to catch mail thieves on Christmas Eve," he said.

SHAWN GUST/Press Randy Craig describes his encounter, that included a car chase, with mail thieves last week.

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