Suspect Ira Stringer, courtesy of ECM news partner 10 News
Slideshow image credit: courtesy of ECM news partner 10 News
Victims fought back, escaped kidnapper
By Miriam Raftery
December 30, 2015 (Ramona) -- A man who kidnapped a baseball coach and teen player, then later carjacked a second vehicle with a Ramona grandmother inside has been arrested. Ira Stringer was taken into custody in Riverside on Sunday after a 45-mile police chase and a two-hour SWAT stand-off, the Ramona Sentinel reports.
The bizarre chain of events ben on Wednesday morning, December 23rd. Stringer reportedly kidnapped a baseball coach and player at gunpoint from Hickman Field in Kearny Mesa, claiming he needed to escape from a gang. He ordered the coach to drive to Ramona, keeping his gun pointed at both victims during the ride.
The coach, Dylan Graham, gave the kidnapper money but Stringer did not release his hostages. Fearing for the lives of himself and his player, the coach waited for the right moment to take action. When the suspect lit a cigarette and started smoking, the coach undid his seatbelt and lunged between the seats, trying to grab the gun from the gunman in the backseat, Channel 7 news reported.
During the struggle, he lost control of his Jeep, which struck another vehicle, then plunged into a ditch off San Vicente Road in Ramona. The gun went off in the struggle, striking the roof of the SUV, but the coach managed to grab the gun.
The teen baseball player, 16-year-old Jack Griffin, leaped out and flagged down a passing motorist, who gave him a ride to a Sheriff’s station in Ramona, the Ramona Sentinel reports. The coach told authorities he also tried to ask a motorist for help, but that Stringer approached him, so he fired twice at the suspect’s feet.
Barbara Roulier, a 79-year-old grandmother from Ramona, came upon the crash scene, where the suspect approached her. Roulier told 10 News the man had blood on him and seemed distraught, so she offered him a ride to a hospital or police station, even though she said he “sensed he was high.”
So she prayed for help.
Then he pointed his hand at her through the pocket of his jeans, claiming to have a gun. Roulier said he ordered her to get him off the mountain, avoid roadblocks and not try to escape.
She took Highway 67, chatting with the suspect to try and establish a rapport. But when she stopped at a red light near the Goodwill store in Ramona, the spry grandmother shifted the car into park, then jumped out – tucking and rolling to avoid injury. She explained later, “It’s amazing, you just kick into this mode and adrenaline starts going.” She told 10 News that she is glad she was the one the suspect chose to kidnap, and says that people, especially older people, must not fall victim to terror.
After she escaped, Stringer took off in her car, a silver Mercedes. A woman in a car behind her saw Roullier escape and gave her a ride to a Sheriff station. Later authorities found her car at the Barona Casino parking lot in Lakeside.
Stringer paid another motorist to drive him out of the area. The Sheriff put out a bulletin with images of Stringer from a surveillance video from a convenience store where the motorist had stopped with the suspect to make a purchase.
It is unclear where Stringer went on Thursday or Friday, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. He is suspected of robbing an AM/PM store in Lemon Grove on Saturday. He is also suspected of using a shotgun to rob a Circle K Store shortly before midnight on Sunday. That’s when he again drew the attention of police, who chased him through Orange County and into Riverside County. There they used a spike strip to finally stop his car, though it took hours to convince him to give up his gun and surrender.
He faces charges of robbery, assault with a deadly weapon and evading police in Orange County. San Diego Police have indicated that they will seek extradition to have Stringer face additional charges locally, Fox News reports. Stringer reportedly admitted to the kidnappings here as well as the Lemon Grove robbery during interrogations. He has a long criminal recording dating back to 1990, including kidnapping a Spring Valley woman in 1995.
Graham, the coach who risked his life to save his young player, was treated for minor injuries at a hospital and is expected to fully recover. Graham formerly played baseball at San Diego State University.
The father of the younger player told Channel 7 News that if not for the coach’s brave actions, “we could have been at a funeral mass instead of a Christmas mass.”