Seattle actor Brian Sutherland, usually cast in the role of villain, jumped into the real-life role of good guy on Tuesday when he chased down a suspected purse snatcher.

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Seattle actor Brian Sutherland is usually cast in the role of villain: He’s played an outlaw, a Nazi and a no-good punk.

But on Tuesday night, the 27-year-old jumped into the real-life role of good guy, chasing down a suspected purse snatcher and returning a stolen wallet to a 69-year-old woman.

Alas, police were unable to arrest the suspect because the victim never saw his face and couldn’t identify him and Sutherland was only 95 percent sure he was the right guy.

Still, Sutherland said Wednesday he’s happy the woman got her belongings back and that he lived up to the example set by his parents. “We need to be watching each other’s backs and standing up for each other,” Sutherland said. “There’s no good reason why somebody who’s lived to 60 or 70 should be jacked on the street in broad daylight. Our society should just not work that way.”

On Tuesday, Sutherland went to a last-minute audition for a feature film at Seattle Center. He read for the part of the leader of an underground fighting ring, wearing a pair of cowboy boots with two-inch heels that he wore while playing Jesse James in the short independent film, “The Shootout.”

Around 6 p.m., he met up with his wife and their 2 ½-year-old daughter. The family was returning to their car when Sutherland heard a woman yelling for help on Mercer Street, near Teatro ZinZanni. He saw a man — white, 30s, black hat, black jacket, haggard with a reddish complexion, pockmarks and facial hair — running with something in his hands.

“Kind of before I knew it, I was running,” said Sutherland, who also called 911.

Another man and a security guard joined the chase but quickly gave up.

“I used to live up on Queen Anne, so I know it like the back of my hand,” said Sutherland, who kept running despite his unfortunate footwear. “We were hopping fences and darting through alleyways.”

After about 15 minutes, Sutherland saw the suspect ditch the woman’s wallet. He picked it up and ran down Queen Anne Avenue North, returning it to the woman, who was being escorted up the hill by a security guard. He then raced back up the hill and spotted the suspect, who ducked into a storage unit near some apartments at Queen Anne Avenue North and West Aloha Street. “For some reason, I thought it was smart to say, ‘We have you surrounded! We know you’re in there,’ ” Sutherland said.

The man emerged with his hands up but bolted once he realized Sutherland was alone.

Sutherland, who was back on the phone with 911, connected with a couple of officers near Aloha and Second Avenue North, he said. They pointed to a man wearing a tan jacket and gray hoodie and asked Sutherland if that was the suspect.

Sutherland, who thinks the man ditched his black coat and hat during the chase, told the officers he was 95 percent sure it was the same guy.

Sutherland shook hands with the victim, who had been brought to the scene in a patrol car.

“She said, ‘If you ever party on Queen Anne, your beer tab is on me for life,’ ” Sutherland said, though he never got her name.

On Wednesday, Seattle police Detective Mark Jamieson said officers interviewed a possible suspect and released him from the scene because he could not be positively identified as the purse snatcher.

While disappointed to learn the suspect wasn’t arrested, Sutherland — who played a Nazi named Hans Roth in a recent episode of the TV show “Grimm” and a punk named Dino in the film version of “Fat Kid Rules The World,” which premiered last week at the South by Southwest Festival in Austin, Texas — is pleased his instincts kicked in and he was able to help someone in need.

“If it was midnight in the Central District, I might’ve thought twice,” he said. “I don’t think Queen Anne has much crime, so it’s such a shock — it was a random Tuesday at 6 o’clock. Then it started snowing on us and it was like I was in an action movie. I kind of had a cowboy moment.”

Sara Jean Green: 206-515-5654 or sgreen@seattletimes.com