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AYER — What caused him to crack? His conscience? The media glare?

Last week, Ayer police were hunting for a man suspected of stealing a car in Ayer and using a debit card left in a wallet in the car. The Public Spirit provided an assist on Aug. 5 by posting the man’s picture, captured via surveillance camera at a Fitchburg gas station, and provided by Ayer police.

Over the next day, tips came in to the Ayer Police Department to look for a man named “Erik.” But before investigators could chase down the leads, “Erik” called police to turn himself in.

At 1:45 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 6, Erik Duncanson, 20, previously of Florida and now homeless, called the station. He told the dispatcher he wanted to “speak with a person about turning himself in for stealing a motor vehicle,” according to Ayer Police Lt. Brian Gill.

Officer Richard Krasinskas and Detective Andrew Kularski responded to Lawton Street to meet the man on the street. Duncanson gestured in the direction of the residence where he took the car and then gestured towards Groton Street where he abandoned the car.

The man also confessed to the unauthorized use of the car owner’s debit card. The card was used at a Lunenburg and a Fitchburg gas station.

Gill asked Duncanson why he called the police. According to Gill, Duncanson said he’d stolen the car several nights ago and wanted to turn himself in. “He said he didn’t want a warrant hanging over his head.”

The blue 1990 Mazda Miata was reported stolen from an Ayer driveway on Monday, Aug. 2. It was found undamaged and abandoned three days later on Groton Street.

Tracking debit card use, police located the image of a young man wearing a black pinstriped Yankees hat and black T-shirt on surveillance film from a gas station on John Fitch Highway in Fitchburg. At midday last Thursday, Aug. 5, Ayer police provided the picture to Nashoba Publishing and it was posted on the newspaper’s website that afternoon.

“We got several calls about potential leads, but before we could start following up, this happened,” Gill said.

Duncanson faces charges of theft of a motor vehicle and larceny of a credit card.