When Royal Rumph went back to class this week, he had one heck of a Spring Break story.

“Well, I chased down somebody. I got ice cream from a police officer. I almost peed my pants. Yeah, it was fun,” Royal said while giggling in his grandmother’s backyard near the beach Friday.

It all happened while Royal was helping his grandmother, Mindy Rumph, fix up her property on Hollister Avenue. A casual afternoon painting the fence turned into real-life cops and robbers when Royal went back to the apartment to wash up. The family has been fixing up a unit inside their apartment building near Neilson Way so an ailing family member can move in. The 9-year-old had just finished washing the paint off his fingers when he glanced at a security monitor and realized a strange man had walked into the apartment.

“When I heard the screen door I looked over and I saw him,” Royal said. “I never knew him before so I just ran behind the door. There was still a little crack I could see through.”

Royal peered from behind the screen as the man picked up his grandmother’s purse and her cell phone. The fourth grader stayed perfectly still but watched with intense focus.

“I was just really scared and nervous. I wasn’t even looking at him taking the stuff I was just looking directly at him.”

Although he has no formal training on dealing with burglars, Royal says he has seen a lot of movies and TV. He stayed hidden until the man was gone – and then ran out to tell his grandmother what happened. She was still outside working on the fence.

“She didn’t even have any shoes on!” Royal said.

Grandma immediately dropped her paintbrush and took off running after the man. He was already heading up across Neilson Way.

But with no shoes, a bum knee and a sticker stuck to her foot, Mindy couldn’t catch up. That’s when the day laborers she had hired to help with the remodel jumped in to help as well. Royal carefully described to them what the burglar was wearing: a grey t-shirt, blue jeans, an orange vest and a blue backpack.

Officer Diaz with the Santa Monica Police Department arrived before Mindy could cancel a single credit card. As he began taking the report, one of the construction workers called to say he caught up with the man and had him sitting on a nearby curb.

Once again, Royal was able to dutifully describe exactly what the suspect had been wearing when he walked into the house. Other officers arrived and placed the suspect in handcuffs.

By the end of the afternoon, grandma had her purse and cell phone back, the suspect, Kumase Shaquan Jefferson had been booked on burglary charges, and Royal had his first ride in the front seat of a cop car.   Officer Diaz, a five year veteran of the force, even treated him to a mint chocolate chip ice cream cone.

“He did everything right,” Mindy said. A spokesman from SMDP agrees.

“The courage displayed by the young witness in this incident is commendable and was vital to the arrest of the perpetrator,” Lt. Saul Rodriguez said, adding the department is working on a way to show their appreciation.  “We are very pleased with the safe outcome of all involved especially the officers, witnesses and victims.”

For Royal, it’s given him something new to think about: a future career in law enforcement and a very good story to tell on the playground at school.

kate@www.smdp.com