Detroit salon owner tracks down her stolen car, wrestles suspected car thief to ground

George Hunter
The Detroit News

Detroit — Bianca Chambers had Facebook Live rolling on her cellphone Wednesday as she stormed into a westside beauty salon and accused a man of stealing her Mercedes Benz, seconds before wrestling him to the ground amid the sounds of thumping and cussing.

In a second video, posted minutes later in the parking lot outside the salon, Chambers announced that she had just made a citizen’s arrest and, with the help of strangers, held the man until officers arrived.

Bianca Chambers said she got a tip that her Mercedes was parked outside of a salon, where the suspected car thief had gone for service.

But police say the incident at the 7 Days West salon on Grand River near Lyndon, in which the man was dragged outside by his dreadlocks, wasn’t a legal citizen’s arrest, but a felonious assault.

Chambers, 32, and her alleged accomplices weren’t arrested, police said, because the victim refused to press charges. Instead, the man was taken into custody for possession of stolen property — the 2016 Mercedes 300C.

“We’ve got a victim who allegedly stole this car who was assaulted, but he didn’t want to press charges, so (Chambers) wasn’t arrested,” Detroit police 2nd Deputy Chief Rudy Harper said. “But that wasn’t a citizen’s arrest; it was a felonious assault. She even admits on the video that she assaulted the man.”

Chambers said her car, a gift from her boyfriend, was stolen Monday from the parking lot outside the Marshall's store at Eight Mile and Woodward. At about 7:30 p.m. that night, she said she spotted a man she didn’t recognize driving the car near Eight Mile and Greenfield, about four miles from where it was stolen.

“He was flying through red lights,” she said. “This guy’s got some (audacity), driving the car around right in the same neighborhood where he stole it.”

Chambers said she called police as she followed her Mercedes. Harper said the dispatcher told her to cut off the chase.

“We were concerned for her safety, so we advised her not to follow the car,” he said.

About an hour-and-a-half later, Chambers said she drove past the salon she owns, Taste of Honey Boutique on Greenfield, and saw her Mercedes parked outside a nearby hookah bar.

“That scared me,” she said. “I mean, I don’t even know this man, and he’s parked right near my business.”

Chambers said she called police but that they didn’t respond. Harper said Detroit police were alerted by Michigan State Police that they’d been flagged down about the stolen car, but by then it was no longer outside the hookah bar. Harper said city police later canvassed the area but didn’t locate the car.

On Wednesday, Chambers said she got a tip that her car was outside the 7 Days West Salon.

“When my car was stolen, I put it on Facebook, and I kept getting tips that it was here or there,” she said. “I was at work and someone said it was at the (7 Days West) and that (suspect) was inside to get his hair twisted.”

Chambers said she left her salon and drove to the 7 Days West. Her car was parked in the lot, she said.

“I sliced all four of the tires so he couldn’t drive away,” she said.

Then, at 1:29 p.m., she fired up Facebook Live and walked into the salon. The video shows her approach a man who’s sitting in a salon chair.

“Excuse me, you got that Benz out there?” she asks.

The man says something indecipherable, and she replies, “Yes, you do, b____.”

The camera wobbles during the altercation before the picture shows multiple people grappling on the floor. Chambers, the camera-holder, then walks outside and, in an expletive-laden tirade, berates the man as he’s being held.

Chambers told The News that strangers inside the salon helped her secure the man and escort him outside. Harper said a video studied by investigators shows the man being dragged out of the salon by his dreadlocks.

Chambers said she called police multiple times but got no response. Harper said there had been a kidnapping in the area, necessitating a helicopter search, and that the Level 4 call about the stolen car wasn’t a priority.

When someone from inside the salon dialed 911 to report an assault, Harper said, that raised the issue to a Level 1 priority, and officers were immediately dispatched.

In a second Facebook video, posted by Chambers at 1:58 p.m., police arrive and interview her before taking the man into custody.

Under Michigan Law 764.16, citizens may arrest someone whether or not the felony was committed in their presence, if a police officer asks for assistance, or if the citizen “is a merchant, an agent of a merchant, an employee of a merchant, or an independent contractor providing security for a merchant of a store and has reasonable cause to believe that the person to be arrested has violated (various laws.)”

But, Harper said, the statute doesn’t allow for punching the arrestee.

Chambers said she has no regrets. “I went inside (the salon), asked him if that was his car, and I hit him,” she said.

When told police considered her actions a felony, not a citizen’s arrest, Chambers said: “Well, I guess I would’ve just taken the assault charge, then. I mean, this guy is cruising around in my car. Now, he’s getting his hair done, about to pick whoever up and go joyriding. That’s just wrong.”

Harper said the Mercedes didn’t have proper insurance.

“The officers at the scene used discretion and didn’t give her a ticket, though,” he said. “They figured she’d already had her car stolen.”

Although she caught a break on the no-insurance ticket, Chambers said she was out the cost of four new tires.

“I took it to the tire shop, and the man said, ‘Dang, you slashed them pretty good,’” she said. “I just got mad seeing that man driving around in my car. I didn’t want him to get away again.”