A hooded man stole a houseboat Sunday morning docked on the Mississippi River near downtown Minneapolis before police tased and nabbed him not far away, according to authorities and witnesses.
The boat was moored off Nicollet Island along the river across from downtown, where the man stole it and pushed the vessel upriver with a board, police said.
The man onboard claimed he was “seizing the boat under maritime law,” emergency dispatch audio disclosed.
The boat’s owner, island resident Zach Norman, said the suspect is a “character who has been around for a few weeks” breaking locks and windows on the vessel.
Jail records list him as a 48-year-old frpm Minneapolis with no permanent address.
Law enforcement was alerted to the heist about 10:30 a.m., but a man walking his dog said he saw the suspected thief struggling with the boat at least two hours earlier.
“It was under the [railroad] bridge, perpendicular to the current, and the anchor was up and it wasn’t moving,” said Steve Thompson. “He was walking on it with a 2-by-4 board trying to spin it around. ... He looked very irritated.”
While running later in the morning, Thompson said, he saw the man crouched on shore between the islands “trying to pull the boat” closer toward him with a rope.
Police officers caught up with the vessel about 11:30 a.m. at nearby Boom Island to the north and pulled it to shore, said Nicollet Island resident Chris Steller.
“All I heard him say was ‘Ow!’ when he got tased,” Steller said.
Another witness, KARE 11 news anchor Jana Shortal, said police had to “jerk him off the boat,” but he was compliant once on land. Shortal said he was shoeless and had on a fanny pack and costume pajamas.
Police also brought a suitcase from the boat, she said.
“I was surprised the boat went the direction it did” against the flow of the river, Steller said. “The wind was blowing hard toward Boom Island, and it was the wind and how he pushed it. That’s how he got it in that direction.”
Police spokesman John Elder said the boat lacked a working motor.
An officer removed the man’s hood just before he was put in back of a squad car, said Steller, who took several photos of the urban piracy.
Police said the man is in his 40s and was arrested on suspicion of theft. He has yet to be charged. The Star Tribune generally does not identify suspects before they are charged.
Norman said the boat is a 1970s River Queen, roughly 38 feet in length, and can sleep “four comfortably and probably six if it’s a very close family.”
Norman bought the boat about a year ago from a John Deere mechanic passionate about his craft who named it for the heavy equipment company. The engine is under repair as a remodeling is in the works, he said.
“We love Nicollet Island and are so appreciative of the response from the police” park board and other agencies that rescued the boat from serious harm, Norman said.