Victim helps nab robbery suspect

Posted on 23 Oct 2009 at 8:10pm
By John Wright | News Editor wright@dallasvoice.com

Despite being held at gunpoint, David Ethridge managed to get the information police needed to arrest man wanted in string of robberies

David Ethridge

A gay legal consultant who was kidnapped and robbed at gunpoint in Oak Lawn last weekend said he risked his life to get the license plate number of his attacker, leading to the capture of a man who’s believed to be responsible for a string of similar crimes in the area over the last two months.

Dallas police on Monday, Oct. 19 arrested Cortnie Estelle, 39, who is expected to face aggravated robbery charges in connection with at least four of the crimes that have occurred in the Oak Lawn, Turtle Creek and Uptown areas since mid-August.

Estelle, a registered sex offender, was being held on $300,000 bond.

Authorities tracked down Estelle on Monday near his south Dallas home after David Ethridge, 34, provided them with the suspect’s license plate number and a description of his vehicle.

Ethridge told Dallas Voice this week that he was getting into his car alone at about 3:45 a.m. Sunday in a paid parking lot near Reagan and Hall streets, just a block from the Cedar Springs strip. The suspect pointed a gun at Ethridge and told him to move into the passenger seat and lean it back so no one could see him.

“He drove me around in my car for a good 20 minutes or more, with the gun on me the entire time, looking for an ATM,” Ethridge said in an e-mail to Dallas Voice on Thursday, Oct. 22. “I kept directing him towards Cedar Springs because I knew there would be people around, and maybe even police. I kept talking to him the whole time trying to build a rapport with him — anything so he wouldn’t shoot me in the head.”

Cortnie Estelle

Ethridge said the suspect eventually drove to an ATM at a Chase Bank on Lemmon Avenue, near Whole Foods Market.

“I wouldn’t recommend this to others, but I didn’t withdraw any money from the ATM,” Ethridge said. “I entered the wrong PIN repeatedly for two reasons. One, I’ve worked really hard for everything I have. Two, I wanted to keep him in front of the ATM camera as long as possible.”

Ethridge said the suspect then drove back to the area of the abduction and stopped in a dark alley.

“It was at that point that I thought for sure he was going to kill me, so I just kept talking to him, telling him he was too young to do anything he would regret the rest of his life,” Ethridge said. “At that point, he told me he already had two ‘murder charges’ against him. I’m not quite sure how one responds to that statement.”

Ethridge said the suspect took his credit cards, his iPhone and $150 in cash before getting out of the vehicle. But he didn’t take Ethridge’s keys.

As Ethridge drove out of the alley, he collided with the suspect’s vehicle, and a chase ensued through the Turtle Creek area. Ethridge said the suspect shot at him twice, with one bullet blowing out a mirror and the other striking the hood of his 2009 Audi. That’s when Ethridge abandoned the chase.

“Bottom line, I was determined not to be a victim, or let this happen to another person,” he said.

Asked about being a hero, Ethridge added: “I don’t know about all that. I just especially loathe cynical, weak criminals that prey on women and vulnerable communities like ours.”

Ethridge, who lives in North Oak Cliff, said he moved out of Oak Lawn a few years ago to get away from the high crime rate after being held up with a shotgun while jogging near Bowser Avenue and Knight Street.

Sr. Cpl. Kevin Janse, a spokesman for the Dallas Police Department, confirmed Ethridge’s account of the incident.

“Though we don’t recommend it, his following the suspect led to that suspect vehicle, which ultimately led to his arrest,” Janse said.

Janse said Estelle will be charged in at least four of the recent robberies.

Last week, before Ethridge’s robbery, police said they believed as many as seven cases were linked.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 23, 2009.

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