Ashland man who caught prowler gets award

An Ashland man who chased a prowler for about a mile — while barefoot — and held him until police arrived received an award from the mayor this month for his actions.

On Aug. 21, Mike Munter, 33, chased and caught Troy Fretwell, 41, who was later jailed for two months after he pleaded guilty to one count of attempted invasion of personal privacy.

Fretwell also confessed he was responsible for at least a dozen other prowler cases dating back to late 2007. He is in the Jackson County Jail until Nov. 10, his scheduled release date.

At the request of the police chief, Mayor John Stromberg presented Munter with an award at the Oct. 6 City Council meeting.

"I just thought this was kind of an amazing thing that happened," Stromberg said Monday. "It wasn't like he goes around prepared to leap into action — it was like it just happened in the moment and he did it."

That August night, Munter and his wife had just gotten home and he had stepped outside to look at the stars — when something else caught his attention.

Standing on the patio in his backyard on Lincoln Street at about 10:15 p.m., he saw a man peering in his neighbor's window. The man had his black T-shirt pulled up over his nose to conceal his face as he looked through a woman's bedroom window.

At dinner that evening, Munter and his wife had been talking about the prowler, who had been reported looking into women's bedroom windows in the past month. And Munter's colleagues at his workplace, Massif Mountain Gear, had e-mailed around a Daily Tidings article with a police composite drawing of the prowler.

"I was pretty sure that was the guy, but I wanted to make sure, so I said, 'Can I help you?'" Munter said.

Instead of responding to Munter's question, the man took off running — so Munter did too, never mind the fact that he was barefoot.

"I start yelling at him to stop," he said.

Munter, a lean recreational runner, wrestled Fretwell to the ground in a nearby parking lot. But as Munter was getting out his phone to call 911, Fretwell broke loose.

"He got back out and was running away, and so I started chasing him again," Munter said. "We were ducking behind houses and through alleyways — it was like this crazy chase and I didn't have any shoes on."

Holding his cell phone with one hand and grabbing for Fretwell's shirt with the other, Munter continued the chase as he tried to describe his surroundings to the emergency dispatcher on the phone. The difficulty was that Munter had just moved to Ashland a month before from Seattle.

"So I'm trying to give directions, but I don't really know the area that well," he said.

But Munter was able to describe landmarks, giving officers a general description of the area where the two men were running. Eventually, after Munter had grabbed Fretwell by the shirt and tried to stop him several times, Munter was able to hold the suspect until police arrived at the intersection of Quincy and California streets.

"The cops found us and grabbed the guy, and that was the night," Munter said.

His feet, which were bleeding by the end of the chase, were tender to walk on for days afterward, he said.

"My blood blisters just went away a week ago," he said last week.

The Ashland Police Department, which had been trying to catch the prowler for more than two years, was thankful for Munter's help, Police Chief Terry Holderness said.

"We were just happy that somebody had caught him," he said. "We have limited resources, especially during the graveyard shift."

Still, the department doesn't typically recommend that untrained people chase down potential criminals, Holderness said.

"We always tell people it's better to be a good witness," he said. "But it just depends on the circumstances and in this case, it certainly worked out right."

Munter's friends and colleagues have called him a hero, but he shrugs off the title.

"At work they say it, but I don't think so," he said. "I think I just happened to be in the right place at the right time, that's all."

Besides the fact that he's become something of a local celebrity, not much has changed for Munter, who has no plans to pursue a law enforcement career, he said.

"I just try to wear my shoes when I go outside now," he said. "Otherwise life is back to normal."

Contact staff writer Hannah Guzik at 482-3456 ext. 226 or hguzik@dailytidings.com.

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