by Max Brantley
The Capitol View/Stifft Station neighborhood is up in arms about an apparent catnapper. Many cats are missing and one neighbor reports a violent encounter with a man trying to stuff a cat into a cooler.
Fox 16 notes it reported the rash of cat thefts last week.
UPDATE: David Koon talked with the LRPD, which is cautious about joining the neighborhood alarm. However, it is pursuing a suspect and is on the trail of one this afternoon. Please read on:
Rumors of cat thievery started flying early this month when Stifft Station resident Antonio Solares posted to an online message board that he had confronted a skinny, light-skinned black man who he saw stuffing a cat into a red and white cooler near his home on 2nd street between Dennison and Rice Streets. In subsequent interviews — including interviews with the Democrat-Gazette, KLRT Fox 16 and KATV Channel 7 — Solares said that the man told him that the cat had bitten his daughter and he was going to kill it. When Solares tried to stop him, he said the man picked up a stick and hit him in the face before dropping the cooler and running away. Inside, Solares found the cat still alive, but with a black plastic bag wrapped around its head.
Little Rock Police Department spokesman Lt. Terry Hastings said that while the media interviews with Solares had him saying he has spoken to police about the incident (and, in the case of the Democrat-Gazette story, police responding to the scene after Solares was struck)
the LRPD has not had contact with him. Hastings said that detectives are trying to reach him now to interview him and recover the red cooler and plastic bag seen in news reports as possible evidence. After the story broke, a resident of Palm Street came forward to say that she saw a teenager feeding her cat from a cooler, with the cat disappearing soon after.
UPDATE: Hastings called back to say a police report on the incident HAD been located. It was classified as a battery of Solares, not a cat theft, and so was initially difficult to find. He said the victim was out of town currently, but police hope to get in touch soon and hope to recover the cooler.
Hastings said that since the story ran on Fox 16 last Friday, several people from the area have called police to report that their cats might have been stolen by the catnapper. One woman called to relate her suspicion that her cat, who disappeared two years ago, was a victim. A neighborhood watch meeting was held on Monday to address the situation.
"People saw the news story on Friday, and everybody assumes that if their cat is missing, it has been kidnapped," Hastings said. "It's kind of turning into an urban legend, and people are trying to apply that to: 'Well, if they'll kidnap a cat, they'll kidnap our kids!' It has grown, for lack of a better word, legs, and now everybody is up in arms about it."
Hastings said that he's a cat lover who owns three cats, so his heart goes out to those who have lost their pets. He said the LRPD is taking the situation seriously and investigating, but due to the rumors and fear, the situation is quickly becoming a "quagmire."