NYT columnist Kristof chases, nabs alleged thief in Philadelphia hotel

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File photo: Nicholas Kristof speaks in New York in September 2012.

New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof is a two-time Pulitzer Prize-winner, a world traveler, and a runner. He's also apparently a thief-nabber.

Kristof was staying in the Franklin Hotel, at Fourth and Chestnut Streets, near Independence Hall, when he discovered an intruder in his hotel room Saturday morning, chased him, nabbed him, and then held him until police arrived.

The story is pretty dramatic, as Kristof wrote later in the day on the Times' website.

He said he and his wife, Sheryl WuDunn, were in Philadelphia for a meeting of the American Philosophical Society. At about 7 a.m. Saturday, he went to the hotel lobby to get coffee.

"Sheryl was sleeping, so to reduce the sound I closed the door but didn't quite let it lock," he wrote.

He saw a man who appeared to be waiting for the elevator on his floor - and when Kristof returned to his room, found that man inside.

" 'What are you doing?' I shout. 'Who are you?' " he wrote.

Kristof said the man, with his wife's purse, answered, "Maintenance man," and tried to push past him. Kristof began shouting. His wife, waking, called security.

"I chase after him, hot on his heels," the columnist wrote.

The man threatened to stab Kristof, though the columnist said he did not see a knife.

The two ran down the stairs until the man exited on the second floor, then barreled through a decorative divider in the hotel, before rushing down the grand staircase into the lobby. The columnist jumped the man, they tussled, and Kristof then pinned the "scrawny" would-be thief "in a full nelson," he wrote.

Kristof tweeted about the adrenaline-rushing event.

"Big excitement," he wrote in a 7:51 a.m. post. "I interrupted an intruder in my hotel room in Philadelphia. A chase. A fight. Restrained him. Police have just arrived."

At 8:33: "The intruder in our hotel room was just a thief. Thanks to Franklin Hotel for helping. He has been arrested. I'm not really hurt."

Kristof tweeted at 9:22 that the "thief is jailed. I have a wrenched thumb from the fight but otherwise OK. Fortunately, he was a wimpish thief."

On Facebook, Kristof said: "Thanks for all the well wishes. Don't worry: I only jump thieves when they're scrawny and unarmed."

Police confirmed the incident occurred.

The alleged thief is a 58-year-old. Police said he is of the 300 block of South Broad Street; Kristof wrote that he learned the man is homeless and was unarmed. Police did not release the man's name pending completion of charges.

shawj@phillynews.com215-854-2592

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