Fresno police say dog, good Samaritan helped foil auto theft

FRESNO, Calif.

The Animal Compassion Team was wrapping up an adoption clinic outside the Whities Pets store on Sunday evening when a stranger who asked to help suddenly turned against them, taking off with a car and two passengers. The entire incident was caught on tape.

On the store's surveillance video you can see the suspect on the right side of the screen walk by the tan Corolla outside of Whities Pets, see there's no one looking, get inside and speed off, almost hitting a woman in the process.

"He was helping us load the trailer and he jumped in my car right afterwards and took off in it," auto theft victim Cassie Heffington said.

The 36-year-old suspect, Jeremy Hindman, drove off with Dolly, a shepherd mix, and Ottis, a border-terrier mix, both in the back seat.

"I figure I'd would never see my car again, but I was more worried about the dogs, either being dumped on the freeway or dying of heat exhaustion in the back of my car," Hindman said.

Nikilas Cornwell was in the parking lot at the time and jumped into action.

"I just heard some lady screaming and some kid started running at a car that started peeling out right here down the road," Cornwell said.

Cornwell started chasing the suspect in his own car while his girlfriend called the police. As the suspect was trying to make his getaway, little Ottis was causing some major problems.

"Ottis was in the back seat of the car loose, Dolly was in the crate, and Ottis was trying to bite the man," Heffington said.

The suspect first pulled to the side of the road outside a McDonalds, where he tossed a feisty Ottis out of the car and took off.

"I kept following him all the way to Clinton, made a right and followed him all the way to West where I got behind him close enough where the cops could catch up," Cornwell said.

The suspect was flying down streets at 80 miles per hour until he was pulled over by Fresno Police at Clinton and West. Dolly was safe inside, but Ottis was still missing.

Officers went back to the area were the pooch was tossed and soon found him safe and sound.

"It ended in the best way it could have possibly ended. Unless these guys happen to get a forever home, then it would have ended even better," Heffington said

Both Ottis and Dolly are still looking for permanent homes. If you think you can provide a good home for them, you're urged to contact the Animal Compassion Team.

Copyright © 2021 KFSN-TV. All Rights Reserved.