Phoenix homeowner pepper sprayed by suspected 'porch pirate'

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(Source: Maricopa County Sheriff's Office) (Source: Maricopa County Sheriff's Office)
(Source: 3TV/CBS 5) (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
(Source: 3TV/CBS 5) (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
(Source: 3TV/CBS 5) (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)

Police say a Phoenix homeowner helped solve at least two crimes when he confronted and chased a pepper spray-wielding suspect.

Jeremiah Lopez says he spotted a suspicious man peering over his backyard fence Dec. 12 near 7th and Glendale avenues.

Lopez approached the man and shouted at him to leave. Lopez snapped pictures of the man as he initially pedaled away on a bicycle.

“I stayed here watching to make sure he leaves the neighborhood and he came back again,” Lopez said. “And this time, he's riding a little faster. [He] rides right up to me in my yard and sprays me right in the face” with pepper spray.

The pepper spray hit Lopez in the left eye, but it didn’t deter him. He says he jumped in his SUV and chased the suspect, all while calling 911.

Lopez said as he pursued the pedaling suspect, the man made an abrupt turn on his bicycle and the two collided.

“Bike goes off the car. He flies off the hood and he gets up and starts swinging a bag at the car down the side and yelling,” Lopez said, adding that the man appeared to dump several items into a nearby yard.

The impact left the bicycle mangled and caused some damage to Lopez’ vehicle.

Phoenix police arrived and arrested the man, identified as 30-year-old Gabriel Poventud.

Lopez posted about his experience on the social media app, Nextdoor, and neighbors started putting new pieces together.

Users compared Poventud’s booking photo to video posted by a neighbor of a package theft the day before, near Maryland and 7th avenues. They presented the information to Phoenix police, who booked Poventud on suspicion of both crimes.

“That was the leg up on the case,” said Sgt. Vince Lewis with Phoenix police.

“This is one of those unique situations where the community came together with law enforcement to solve a crime in their own neighborhood,” he said.

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Derek StaahlDerek Staahl is an Emmy Award-winning reporter and fill-in anchor who loves covering stories that matter most to Arizona families.

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Derek Staahl

This once-uncompromising "California guy" got his first taste of Arizona in 2015 while covering spring training baseball for his former station. The trip spanned just three days, but Derek quickly decided Phoenix should be his next address. He joined CBS 5 and 3TV four months later, in August 2015. Before packing his bags for the Valley of the Sun, Derek spent nearly four years at XETV in San Diego, where he was promoted to Weekend Anchor and Investigative Reporter. Derek chaired the Saturday and Sunday 10 p.m. newscasts, which regularly earned the station's highest ratings for a news program each week. Derek’s investigative reporting efforts into the Mayor Bob Filner scandal in 2013 sparked a "governance crisis" for the city of San Diego and was profiled by the region’s top newspaper. Derek broke into the news business at WKOW-TV in Madison, WI. He wrote, shot, edited, and presented stories during the week, and produced newscasts on the weekends. By the end of his stint, he was promoted to part-time anchor on WKOW’s sister station, WMSN. Derek was born in Los Angeles and was named the “Undergraduate Broadcast Journalism Student of the Year” in his graduating class at USC. He also played quads in the school’s famous drumline. When not reporting the news, Derek enjoys playing drumset, sand volleyball, and baseball.

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