Two thefts thwarted Friday on Bank Street

New London — A would-be thief who allegedly tried to pilfer a credit card machine from a Bank Street tattoo shop probably didn’t count on the tattoo artist being a former Muay Thai kickboxing trainer.

Bank Street Tattoo employee Johnny Rivero was working on a customer’s tattoo at the shop at 116 Bank St. on Friday evening when a man walked in to inquire about a tattoo. The two chatted. Rivero directed him to a pad and pen to write his number down when the customer he was working on said, “I think this guy is trying to steal something.”

Rivero, a former Muay Thai trainer, took off his surgical gloves, confronted the man and saw that he had stuffed the credit card machine, which resembles an iPad, into his pants.

“I said ‘what is wrong with you?’” Rivero said.

Rivero snatched the man by the back of the collar, slammed him to the ground and recovered the stolen machine. The customer called 911 and Rivero said he intended to wait with the man for the arrival of police. Rivero said he was cognizant of the fact the man might be armed.

“I was restraining myself from pummeling the guy. If he did reach in his pocket, he would have been knocked out,” Rivero said.

The alleged suspect, later identified as Kihe McGaha, 36, with a last known address at 325 Huntington St., managed to free himself and ran out the door. Rivero gave a brief chase but said the man was too fast to keep up with.

Police, who fielded the 911 call at 8:41 p.m., caught up with McGaha in the area of Tilley Street.

Rivero, who was not injured, credits police for their quick work. He said they made the arrest within five minutes of the 911 call.

“I am extremely impressed with how fast police responded and took care of things. They were on it and caught him,” Rivero said.

McGaha was charged with third-degree robbery, fifth-degree larceny and interfering with police. He was held in lieu of a $25,000 bond. He has several past criminal convictions for larceny, assault and probation violations for which he received suspended sentences and probation.

McGaha’s arrest was one of two related to Bank Street crimes on Friday.

The first incident occurred at 11:33 a.m. in the area of 345 Bank St. A liquor delivery person said he saw an individual stealing bottles from his delivery truck and chased him down, police said.

As the delivery person attempted to get the bottles back, police said he was assaulted by a man later identified as Reynaldo Cartagena, 35, of 50 Smith St., Groton. Police said the delivery person suffered a superficial injury to the area around his eye. He recovered the liquor before the suspect fled, police said.

Officers caught up with Cartagena about two hours later, when he was seen walking into the Ravi Mart at 268 Bank St. He was identified by the victim as the suspect and taken into police custody. Cartagena is charged with third-degree robbery, third-degree assault and sixth-degree larceny. He was held in lieu of a $25,000 bond.

 g.smith@theday.com

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