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Running Store Employees Chase Down Vandal

Posted by: on October, 1 2015

Found on RunnersWorld.com and written by Megan Hetzel

The suspect had been shooting at windows in the area for weeks.

A word of advice for vandals: Don’t carry out your misdeeds close to runners. They will chase you down.

Such was the case near Robert’s Running and Walking Shop in Huntington, West Virginia, recently. For about three weeks, an unidentified person was shooting at the windows of buildings, cars, and traffic lights in the vicinity with a pellet gun.running store
Ryan Smith, an employee at the specialty running store, found a BB-sized hole in the driver’s side window of his truck after his shift on September 22. Two days later, another employee, who had just returned from a run, witnessed the vandal in action, firing at a neighboring insurance company. He ran inside the store and told Ryan Smith and owner Robert Smith (no relation), who went outside to confront the man.

The suspect, who was later identified by police as Robert Coffman, went into his apartment near the scene for a few minutes. Meanwhile, Robert Smith called the police. Then Coffman came back out, and, “as soon as he hit the concrete, he took off sprinting,” Ryan Smith told Runner’s World.

“I can’t say we took off running after him,” Robert Smith added. “I’d say we took off running with him. He was a bigger guy, and I tried to explain to him while we were running that I could keep this up literally all day long. I run ultras.”

Ryan Smith, who holds a 16:02 5K personal best, said he was actually running in front of Coffman.

“For as big as he was, he was actually pretty quick,” Ryan Smith said. “We chased him through an alley for about a block and a half. If I had to guess a pace for how fast we were going, I would say high 6:00s or low 7:00s. He got pretty desperate.”

After a couple minutes Coffman slowed, and he and Robert Smith pushed each other around before Ryan Smith restrained Coffman’s arms. (Police records show that Coffman is 6-foot-2 and 265 pounds.)

“I’m just glad that [Robert Coffman] ran first and wrestled second,” Robert Smith said. “If I had been a wrestler in college, I could’ve stopped the situation earlier, but I wasn’t so I let him wear himself out a little bit first.”

The police arrived soon after and arrested Coffman, who has been charged with destruction of property, according to WSAZ NewsChannel 3.

“Between the Huntington police and the state police, I’m good friends with a lot of those guys because it’s not a very big state,” Robert Smith said. “All of them thought it was pretty ironic that someone decided to run from me.”

Ryan Smith said the incident has already become a running joke in the store. He ran a 5K last weekend and won prize money for his third-place finish. He texted Robert Smith with the news, and he replied, saying, “Chasing down criminals is good training.”

“To be able to run him down, it felt so good,” Ryan Smith said. “Even though I probably won’t see my money back for my window, I’m still going to press charges. It was so stupid for him to do what he did in the first place and then run from it.”