Alert Student Nabs Hunted Man

A man accused of a committing a frightening crime in New York City on Halloween was caught in Tennessee on Friday, Dec. 16, 2005, after nearly two months on the run.

But when former fashion writer Peter Braunstein was cornered in Memphis, Tenn., he did not go quietly.

Police say Braunstein used a knife to stab himself in a bizarre and bloody confrontation with campus police at the University of Memphis.

"He pulled out a knife, the individual did, and started stabbing himself in the neck — three of four times or so — and went down and was bleeding pretty profusely," said Bruce Harbor, University of Memphis police director.

Braunstein's belongings, including a fake gun, littered the side of the road, ending weeks on the run.

The manhunt started at the beginning of November after police say Braunstein posed as a firefighter and bluffed his way into a woman's apartment. They say he bound and sexually assaulted her for 13 hours.

Since then, the former fashion writer managed to elude police, despite being spotted several times — most recently at a Memphis blood bank where he apparently sold his blood for $20.

"He provided us with his passport with his real name on it," said Steve Stamley of TN Blood Services. "They asked him if he had a state ID, instead. That's all we needed, basically."

The big break came Dec. 16 when Annette Brown, a student employee, recognized Braunstein from television reports and alerted police.

Jay Johnson is the University of Memphis campus police officer who apprehended and arrested Braunstein.

Brown and Johnson spoke with The Early Show's Tracy Smith about what transpired.

Brown says she was very afraid when she first realized it was Braunstein.

"I didn't see anything. I saw death and evil," she said of looking directly into the suspect's eyes. "And it just scared the daylights out of me. I just was trying to keep my composure at that point."

She says she's not sure how she was able to remain calm.

"I don't know. I guess divine intervention," she said. "I'm not really sure. I was having a fit (inside)."

She was calm enough to contact campus police. Then officer Johnson approached Braunstein.

"I saw him and reported it on the radio that I spotted him and I was going to stop him," he said. "He saw me and crossed the street right in front of me, looking at me. He kind of glared at me. At that point, I attempted to tell him to stop and I wanted to talk to him. He looked at me several times and continued to walk, he picked up his pace."

Then, Johnson said Braunstein pulled out a knife.

"He reached in his pocket, in his right pocket — I think it was his jacket — and he started pulling something out and couldn't get it out," he said. "It seemed to be snagged. I could see it looked like a black handle and a silver object."

As Braunstein struggled to get the object out of his pocket, Johnson drew his weapon.

"I was ordering him to get his hand out of the pocket," he said. "He stopped and turned and faced me. I was out of my car in the middle of the street and he raised the knife up and faced me. I considered it a challenge and I ordered him to drop it. I commanded him to drop it or I would shoot.

"He didn't come at me, but after a couple of commands he moved the knife at a position right at his neck and began to stab himself," Johnson said. "At first, it was very small punctures and I decided that I had to stop him, so I sprayed him with pepper gas."

But Johnson says the pepper gas did little to stop the suspect.

"He was looking at me and he began sinking the knife in deeply and I knew I had to stop him from doing that so I started spraying him with pepper gas. It had no effect. He didn't even flinch," he said. "At that time, I followed him on foot, ordering him to stop. He went about 50 feet. He had picked up his pace quite a bit, but stopped after 50 feet and turned suddenly and dropped the knife and said, 'OK, I give up.' "

Brown says she is glad she was able to help.

"I think about it all the time and now, since this happened, I'm just really grateful that I was there," she said. "There was a reason that I was there. There was a reason why he walked in my direction. And I just, you know, am really thankful that no students were hurt and no other employees or myself. I'm very grateful."
  • Michelle Singer

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