‘He’s a real-life hero’: Man spots Amber Alert suspect with children in car, helps police find him

WASHINGTON, Pa. — An Amber Alert was issued out of Zanesville, Ohio Thursday night for a gold Chevrolet Suburban stolen with a 3-year-old and a baby in the back.

A woman who was caring for the two boys told police she left the unlocked vehicle running as she ran into a building for what she said was less than 10 minutes. When she came out, the vehicle and children were gone.

RELATED COVERAGE >>> Children in back of car stolen in Ohio found in Washington County; Man taken into custody

Three hours later and 100 miles away at a Circle K in Washington, Canonsburg tattoo artist Dougie DeCosta was getting gas when a vehicle matching that description pulled in.

“As I was getting ready to leave, a vehicle pulls up, guy acting all suspicious and weird. He says, ‘Hey man, you got some change!?’ Acting all goofy. I was like, ‘Dude I can’t help you,’” DeCosta said.

Police said the suspect is 46-year-old Thomas Pritchard.

“And he said, ‘I got my kid in the back teething here!’ And I said, ‘Oh god, this dude has a kid in that car.’ I was like, ‘That’s not good,’” DeCosta said.

DeCosta, a father himself, called 911. Just as the dispatcher confirmed it was the amber alert vehicle, the suspect drove off.

“He took off out of there, and I took off after him,” DeCosta said.

DeCosta said he then followed the car as it fled up to 60 mph, not letting him get out of his sight and directing dispatchers.

Viewer video shows what happened next as dozens of police officers caught up with them and swarmed the stolen car.

“They had him at gunpoint, pulled him out, and those babies got to go home last night,” DeCosta said.

With both kids safe, people across social media are calling DeCosta a hero -- including the man who happened to be in his tattoo chair today.

“I think it’s an amazing story that I walked into today. He’s a real-life hero,” said Army veteran Joel McConnell. “It’s good to know there are people out there willing to step up and ready because most people might not. He saved the day it’s awesome. It’s unbelievable.”

“I think it was meant to be. I’m so glad those babies are alright,” DeCosta said.

The mother of the two children reached out to DeCosta Friday saying she is forever grateful for him. He said it made him cry.

Pritchard is facing several charges including endangering the welfare of children and DUI.

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