They say if something seems too good to be true, it probably is.
Except in extremely extraordinary cases, like for example, this one.
I can't share a photo of the 67-year-young Park Slope Vigilante who wrote the so I'm using a stock photo of Peter Falk/Columbo because after after speaking with the Park Slope "Peter" — I came away with a feeling that if his photo were taken, it would be identical.
Here's what happened.
2:30 a.m. this past Sunday morning, Peter parked his car and was headed home — somewhere near 8th Ave and 6th Street — when he saw a young black man — early 20's, on the sidewalk with a bike turned upside down, working on it with his tools, wheels spinning.
"I knew something was wrong, you don't see that in this neighborhood and when I looked at the guy, he looked at me like he was doing something wrong, you know?"
I said, I knew.
"It all happened so fast, but I remember I said, like — "Hey! Stop!" And the guy started running — he had his bike parked down the block, like it was waiting — like his get-away car — only it was his bike. I ran after him, I says, 'Don't get on that bike!' But he gets on it, and I'm only about a foot away from him, so I grab his shirt, you know, from behind, and he is going pretty slow but he turns and says, 'Let go of me or I'll hurt you,' But I see one of those books on the ground — you know how in Park Slope people are always leaving out all those books..."
I said, I knew.
"Well I found a pretty heavy one and I picked it up and I threw it. I may be 67 years old, but I'm in pretty good shape, and I hit him on the side of his face and I knocked him off the bike."
"You knocked him off the bike?!"
"Yeah — and that's when I grabbed him, and I'm holding him, and he isn't moving, and there's this woman who comes down and she's throwing out her garbage, you know? So I yell, 'Can you please call 911?!'"
"And what did she say?"
"She ignored me! She just ignored me and she went right back inside."
"That is horrible!"
"Yeah! I mean, really. What was I supposed to do? I didn't have my cell phone with me. So I kept holding him but I was hoping she would have called 911 but nothing happened — no cops showed up and I couldn't hold him any more. The next thing I know the guy goes running to the sidewalk — I see he left his wrench on the corner, so I think he's coming after me, you know?"
"I hope you ran!"
"Yeah, I ran and I hid behind a car, and I see that he was just collecting his tools, he had more than just the wrench out there, this gotta be something this guy does all the time, I mean he had everything. And he's putting it all in his bag and he gets back on his bike and he races down 6th Street — past 7th Avenue, past 6th Avenue, probably lives in the Red Hook Projects. That's my guess. This is his routine, you know? He comes up here and takes it all back with him down there."
Peter was very upset that anyone could have thought He couldn't understand how anyone would have thought that it was the thief who posted them, I tried to explain.
"It just seemed very hard to believe. I didn't think anyone would have 'caught the guy.' I would have thought someone would call the police, but it didn't seem like that made much sense."
But I could tell that Peter was steamed. "What'd I do it for? When people like you don't even say 'Thank You.' You accuse me of being a thief!"
I tried to explain it was just a theory. "We didn't know what to think! Who 'catches a guy!?'"
"Well I'm old school, honey, and if I see something like that, then I do something about it. And I don't want no credit for it, you know? I mean, just a simple thank you — that's all I was doing it for, I would have liked to just give the stuff back and have someone say a little thank you."
"I do thank you, really!! And I'm sure that the other people in the neighborhood would thank you!"
I asked him if he wanted his picture in the paper, if he wanted to talk to other reporters, that they wanted to talk to him. That he was a kind of hero, even if it was a little crazy to put himself in harm's way, but he wanted nothing to do with it.
"I don't want no publicity, I just don't want nobody thinking I was the thief! I mean, really! Come on! Can you believe that? After all I did? I mean, what did I do it for?!"
I told him again that I appreciated what he tried to do but also tried to add that apprehending a criminal in the middle of a crime is law enforcement's responsibility.
"No cops are going to care about this, they got too many other things going on. They don't care about a bike thief!"
I said I was relieved the husky 20-year-old wasn't packing, didn't have a gun or a knife and that he didn't get hurt.
"Yeah, yeah, all right." He finally said, sounding a little more appreciated, "But look, I still got a bike and a rear wheel tire — I took everything off the street so they could be claimed."
If you, Park Sloper, had your bike stolen at 8th Ave. and 6th St. contact Peter. If you are missing a rear tire, contact Peter. "They gotta describe it, in detail, you know? I'm not just giving this stuff away. Make sure they know."
You can reach Peter by emailing me here at the Patch or posting a comment, either way, on behalf of the Neighborhood and all of us who wished there were more Peters in the world, we thank you.
The next time something seems too good to be true, I will take a moment and consider the possibility that it very well might be. True.