Police: Panhandler steals car at knifepoint as driver offers change

Police: Panhandler steals car at knifepoint as driver offers change »Play Video
Anthony Byam (Booking photo from the Lane County Jail)

EUGENE, Ore. -- A man was carjacked at knife-point Saturday evening when he offered change to a panhandler near 13th and High St., police officials said.

An officer identified the stolen Toyota Corolla driving on Centennial Blvd. in Springfield about 2 a.m. Sunday morning. After a short car chase, the driver crashed the stolen car into a water main and fled on foot. 

A Springfield officer pursued and eventually took Anthony Byam, a 22-year-old homeless man, into custody. He faces multiple charges, including possession of a stolen vehicle, DUII and a felony charge of eluding by vehicle.

The incident started when a 21-year-old University of Oregon student reported leaving Full City Coffee on 13th Ave. and High at around 5:30 p.m. 

The student told police he was approached by a man asking for bus change as he was getting into his car. The victim gave him some change, but the man ultimately pulled a knife on the victim and demanded his car, said Eugene Police spokeswoman Melinda McLaughlin.

The man got into the student's maroon 1998 Toyota Corolla and drove off.

Around 2 a.m. Sunday, a Springfield Police Officer found the stolen Corolla near 18th and Centennial Blvd. 

As the officer turned around, officials said the vehicle fled at a high rate of speed. 

According to the police report, the car crashed into a water main near Mohawk Blvd and M St., both airbags deployed and Byam fled on foot.

The Springfield PD officer chased Byam through some nearby businesses and took him into custody near the Starbucks on 18th Street. Another officer was called out to conduct a DUII investigation.

Springfield Police charged Byam with felony elude by vehicle, unauthorized use of a vehicle, possession of a stolen vehicle, DUII, elude by foot, hit and run and reckless endangering. Byam has not been identified as the suspect in the initial carjacking.

Byam was later booked at the Lane County Jail on additional charges of unlawful entry of a vehicle, 1st degree criminal mischief and driving on a suspended license.

Officers said they found some evidence of the robbery inside the car, including a knife. A Eugene Police detective responded to help investigate the robbery side of the carjacking. 

Below is the water main police say Byam crashed into during a police chase in Springfield

The victim did not want to go on camera but told police he often gives money to panhandlers, and would still do it again. 

People living in the area agreed, saying they would also keep giving to the homeless. However residents like Ty Conner said they weren't too surprised by this crime.

"Desperation leads people to do desperate things,” said Conner.

"It's not surprising. I know little by little it's happening in every single corner, it doesn't matter where you live,” agreed Josh Navarte.

Kevin Cabono often gets coffee at the same shop where the robbery happened. He says the scariest part of it all the randomness. 

"There's no real way of knowing how or when you are going to run into that,” he said.

As for police, they say there are a number of ways people can help the less fortunate without handing out cash to individuals. 

Springfield Police Sergeant Pete Kirkpatrick said if you ever run into a situation where weapons are involved, do what they're asking in order to prevent something worse from happening.