WOOSTER — At first, Kaleb Tilton was hoping the boy would stop and turn around on his own.

Tilton, a senior at Smithville High School and employee at the McDonald’s on Wooster’s North End, was on his break around 3 p.m. April 7 when he saw a boy take off on a bike. A few minutes earlier, Tilton had seen an older woman ride the bike up to the restaurant and go inside.

The woman, Tilton said, came running out of the restaurant, yelling for the boy and another kid who was with him to come back. But when the boys didn’t stop, Tilton sprang into action.

“I was looking around and I didn’t see anyone else doing anything,” said Tilton, who was sitting in his truck in the parking lot when he saw the theft take place in his rear view mirror. “So I backed up and chased after the kids.”

Tilton followed the boys north through the parking lot of the Wayne Town Plaza before getting out of his car and running after them as they cut over east toward Friendsville Road. Tilton, a hurdler and high jumper at Smithville, ran after the boy on the bike until he crossed Friendsville and hid in a shed near the intersection with Riffel Road. That’s when Tilton, who had left his phone inside McDonald’s while he was on his break, found a woman to lend him her phone so he could call 911.

Police arrived in a few minutes, Tilton said, and found both the bike and the two boys. Tilton and the officers then went back to McDonald’s, where they were able to return the bike to the woman.

“She was just so happy, and it made me happy, too,” Tilton said. “She said the bike was the most precious thing she had.”

The woman told Tilton the bike had belonged to a deceased relative, and that it had significant sentimental value, he said. The 77-year-old woman also told police that the bike was more than 50 years old, Wooster police Capt. Anthony Lemmon said. Several attempts to reach the woman for this story were not successful.

“She appeared to be very grateful with the officers, saying the bike is 52 years old and has great sentimental value,” Lemmon said.

And, he added, the happy ending is largely a result of Tilton’s quick thinking.

“In this case, we were able to get the bike back based on what the witness did, and that’s definitely a credit to him,” Lemmon said.

He also said police appreciate people like Tilton assisting them in investigations like this, as long as they don’t put themselves in danger to help officers.

“This is a great example of someone in our community being observant and taking the time to call us and helping us with our job,” Lemmon said. “We encourage that as long as someone can do it safely.”

Both of the boys involved in the theft, a 16-year-old and 13-year-old, had run away from The Village Network, Lemmon said, and were returned there after the incident.

After all of the excitement, Tilton, who has worked at McDonald’s for about eight months, went back to work. All of this makes for not only a happy story, but a proud mother, too.

“It’s just the coolest story that he did the right thing,” Kaleb’s mom, Lisa Tilton, said. “I’m really proud.”

 

Reporter Jack Rooney can be reached at 330-287-1645 or jrooney@the-daily-record.com. He is on Twitter at twitter.com/RooneyReports.