HOLMBERG: Richmond baker rises up to sticky fingered suspect

Posted at 1:17 AM, Feb 20, 2014

RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR) - A Museum District baker didn’t knead his own dough to be threatened in order to rise up against a sticky fingered suspect Wednesday morning, making it a piece of cake for Richmond police to return the suspect to the cooler.

The action began cooking shortly after 9 a.m. on Cleveland Street.

Michaela Duck, the Girl Friday at  Cakes by Graham, was a few minutes late to work and pulled by the business, right in front of the neighboring floral firm’s delivery van.

“I actually pulled in front of the van and saw a gentleman jump in and shut the door and start rifling through. I kept watching because I didn’t recognize him,” she said.

When the stranger got out, she checked with Tommy Autry, owner of Tommy’s Garden, to make sure he hadn’t hired a new driver.

He hadn’t.

The police were called and Michaela went in and told her boss what was going on.

“I went out there,” said Graham Haddock, “got a description from Michaela and then somebody from Tommy’s business had come back saying 'he’s running up Franklin!’ So I walked around the corner and starting running up Franklin and then I caught up with him.”

You see, Graham isn’t just a baker.

He’s a chef. A longtime chef for the British Army. A chef who grew up in a conservative, hard-working neighborhood in England.

A trained military chef who doesn’t care for thieves. “No, I don’t,” he admits frankly.

So he ran down the suspect, dragged him to the ground in front of Peter Kauffman’s house in the 3300 block of W. Franklin Street and pinned him there until police arrived.

Kauffman said there was no contest.

The suspect was whimpering and declaring his innocence, Kauffman said, but he wasn’t getting out of the grip of the British baker, along with back-up from Tommy’s Garden.

Despite his protestations of innocence, the suspect’s goose  appears to be cooked. There were good witnesses. And it didn’t help he was on house arrest for similar escapades.

Claude Jay Centanni, 30, of Richmond has a lengthy rap sheet for vehicle larcenies and other crimes, court records show.

He also has outstanding fines for previous convictions dating back several years. He is jailed on an outstanding warrant with other charges pending.

A “Service To Law Enforcement Award” is already pending for the baker Graham Haddock, Michaela Duck, Tommy Autry and Chris Cothcan, according to Richmond police Capt. Emmett Williams.

While they don’t encourage citizens to get into physical confrontation with suspected criminals,  in this case “it turned out fine for us,” Williams said.

“Citizens are the best asset we have,” Williams added. “You don’t have to (get) hands-on. But get involved.”

Kauffman said vehicle break-ins may seem small, but they leave people feeling violated and can drive people away from a neighborhood.

Capt. Williams said those caught for these kinds of crimes are often frequent fliers. “If they’ve broken into one car, you can bet they’ve broken into 50 or 100.”

The baker said he didn’t think about the possibility of the suspect having a knife or a gun. He knows now it could’ve turned out differently, but he doesn’t think that thought would’ve stopped him.

Michaela said she’s not the least bit surprised that her boss chased the suspect down. “He just has no fear,” she said. “He’s all about Richmond and protecting the neighborhood.”

Graham said the icing on the cake his neighbor didn’t lose any property, the bad guy went to jail and he was able to come back work  and have a nice, full day of baking.