An extremely muscular self-described athlete overpowered, slammed to the ground and pinned down a would-be carjacker who allegedly flipped a stolen minivan at one of Dyer's busiest intersections and then attacked a woman he pulled out of another vehicle he was trying to steal.
"It was just crazy," Edward McCracken said. "It happened so fast. I'm still trying to piece together what happened."
On Sunday evening, McCracken subdued and held down Brian Kenneth Stewart, 47, of Lynwood, Illinois, who the Lake County prosecutor's office charged late Tuesday afternoon.
Dianna Mae Krask, 42, of Chicago, was also charged in the incident.
At about 5:24 p.m. Sunday, Stewart and Krask crashed a red Kia Sedona minivan at the intersection of Calumet Avenue and U.S. 30 in Dyer, causing it to flip over, after it was used as a getaway from a theft at Jewel-Osco on U.S. 30, according to a probable cause affidavit.
Tom Kellerman, co-owner of Epic Popcorn next to the Jewel, said he saw a man run out of the supermarket with a basket, chased by two Jewel managers who were on the phone. He hopped into a minivan that jumped the Calumet Avenue median and sped off.
Police initially chased the vehicle after a report of shoplifting at the Jewel but gave up on the pursuit for safety reasons.
A few minutes later, the minivan crashed into a 2018 white Chevrolet Equinox at the intersection and flipped over after apparently running a red light, according to the affidavit.
Stewart crawled out of the driver's seat of the overturned minivan, ran toward a woman's car, opened her driver's side door and attempted to pull her out by the arm, according to the affidavit. Krask ran over and also allegedly grabbed the woman, trying to pull her from the car.
The woman held on to the interior of the vehicle before Stewart punched her in the legs and tried to pull her out by her legs, banging her head as he yanked her out, according to the affidavit.
Stewart tried to start the vehicle but then noticed the keys were removed, so he got out and ran toward the nearby Walgreens pharmacy, the affidavit stated.
McCracken had been shopping at the Walgreens and was leaving but heard a lot of people yelling and screaming at the crash scene, so he went to see if he could help.
"I thought, 'That's not normal,' and went to the intersection to see what was going on. Something seemed weird. When I saw a car flipped over, I thought, 'Oh my God,'" he said.
Going on instinct
"I got out of my car, ran up toward the intersection and prepared myself for the worst. I didn't know if someone was lying dead on the ground," McCracken said.
Before he could figure out what was happening, Stewart ran toward his vehicle, which was still running.
"He made a dash for my car, and so I made a dash for my car. I'm in real good shape," said McCracken, a hulking weightlifter with a chiseled physique that resembles a slab of granite.
"I was wearing a brace because I had a partial tear on my bicep tendon, so I couldn't tell if he saw me as a vulnerable victim who couldn't fight back. There was a definite size difference."
McCracken won the foot race to the driver's side door, but Stewart reversed direction and went around to the passenger side. He opened the door and jumped in McCracken's car.
"I don't know if this person has a gun or a knife, or what kind of threat he is, but I went into my car," he said.
"We were fighting in my car — and he kept trying to put it in drive from the passenger seat, but I knew you couldn't do that without hitting the brake. I hit him a couple times and was yanking on him to get out of the car. He was holding onto the car's shifter and then onto the side, but I pulled him out and slammed him to the ground."
McCracken then put the man in a headlock and held him until he stopped struggling. Other bystanders helped him out.
"He knew he wasn't going anywhere," he said. "A woman jumped on him and helped, putting him in a wrist lock. He kept squirming around."
A group of bystanders gathered around while McCracken and the woman, who identified herself as an EMT, held the would-be carjacker down, said Kellerman, who got in his car to see if police caught the fleeing minivan and ended up seeing it flip over in the crash.
"He was trying to do another carjacking when the muscle guy threw him down," Kellerman said. "A woman in the crowd was saying that they're hurting him, and I told her he's shoplifted at the Jewel and he's going to jail. She kept saying 'you're hurting him' and the woman who had him in the wrist lock said that she was an EMT, that he was fine and to leave it alone."
"I don't know what the guy had been through for the last 20 minutes, but it probably took a lot of energy out of him," McCracken said.
"He would squirm for a while and then take a break, trying to regain some energy. There was no way I was going to let him go after what happened."
McCracken said later he got a call of thanks from the father of the 19-year-old woman Stewart had tried to pull out of her vehicle.
"It's a real unfortunate situation," McCracken said.
"I work out quite a bit and do training, and try to be ready for any situation. But I have three young daughters and feel really horrible that a 100-pound, 19-year-old woman had to defend herself against a grown man."
Police later caught Krask who fled the crash scene and climbed over a fence into the backyards of homes located on the 800 block of Old Beach Road, according to the probable cause affidavit. She tried to hide behind a group of pine trees, which is where police found her, discovering she ran away because she had an outstanding warrant in Illinois.
The Kia Sedona turned out to have been stolen Sept. 4 from a valet parking lot in Olympia Fields where the owner was picking up blood samples from a women's health clinic, according to the affidavit.
Krask told a woman she called at the Lake County Jail that police arrested Stewart after "they tried to get somebody else’s car out of the parking lot and Stewart started fighting with a big white dude," according to the affidavit.
"You can't get away with that in the town of Dyer because the whole town is going to take care of you," Kellerman said.
Stewart is facing charges of attempted robbery resulting in serious bodily injury, attempted robbery, two counts of attempted auto theft, auto theft and battery resulting in bodily injury.
Krask is facing charges of attempted robbery resulting in bodily injury, attempted auto theft and battery resulting in bodily injury.
Joseph S. Pete is a Lisagor Award-winning business reporter who covers steel, industry, unions, the ports, retail, banking and more. The Indiana University grad has been with The Times since 2013 and blogs about craft beer, culture and the military.
Get email notifications on Joseph S. Pete daily!
Your notification has been saved.
There was a problem saving your notification.
Whenever Joseph S. Pete posts new content, you'll get an email delivered to your inbox with a link.
Email notifications are only sent once a day, and only if there are new matching items.
Vacation photographs often capture perfect moments in favorite places. Send us your best ones by July 16 for a chance to win up to $1,000 in our Destinations Photo Contest. The top photographs submitted will also be featured in a national publication reaching more than 1 million households.