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Father and son track down alleged car thief

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Posted at 6:30 PM, Mar 16, 2014
and last updated 2014-03-16 23:51:21-04

SALT LAKE CITY -- Salt Lake Police say they're seeing a rash of vehicle thefts downtown.

They say criminals are looking for small items to steal and pawn, but often end up finding the car keys and make off with the vehicle.

That’s what happened to a Salt Lake City man, but thanks to technology and an athletic dad the victim was able to get his stuff back.

The victim, who didn't want to be identified, said he planned to run into his work just a minute and left his door unlocked with the keys inside, when he got back the car was gone.

“I left my phone in the car and in about five minutes, I was able to pull up the iCloud and locate a GPS coordinate for where my phone was at that time,” he said.

The victim called his dad, who is a former cop and retired district attorney for Salt Lake County, Neal Gunnarson.

“We had his computer out and there it was on the screen, a little red dot showing exactly where his cell phone was. We called the police, they recommended that we find him. So we went out and jumped in the car and took off like 007,” Gunnarson said.

The father and son tracked the cell phone as it moved between West Temple and 4th South to 21st South and Main, that’s where they saw a man with their gym bag.

“Dad jumped out of the car, grabbed the guy by the shoulder, said I want to see this bag, took it off his shoulder. The guy just said it's my stuff. I said, well let’s see," said the victim. "[We] opened it up and it was all my stuff.”

At that point the suspect took off running with the 71-year-old Gunnarson in hot pursuit.

“I was aware that I was doing something that was not probably the smartest thing in the world,” Gunnarson said.

The suspect eventually had nowhere to go. Gunnarson and his son held him down and waited for police to arrive.

In a matter of minutes, the suspect confessed and told the police they could find the car parked at a nearby grocery store.

Police said that arrest solved three open car theft cases.