Security company owner tackles bank robber www.privateofficer.com
San Jose CA Jan 14 2012 Using a martial arts move he practices in his garage, the president of a San Jose security company Thursday tackled a suspected bank robber, helping bring to an end a chaotic chase that ended up snarling traffic for five hours as technicians examined a suspicious device in the alleged getaway car.
One woman was injured when the car smashed into her minivan on northbound Highway 85 hear Highway 87, and Gunderson High School was briefly locked down when a second suspect ran into a field on the campus — where he was arrested.
Late Thursday afternoon, the device was exploded with a water charge. It was not a bomb, police said.
Police, who have not identified the pair of suspects in custody, cautiously praised Steve Brown, who founded and runs Echelon Security.
“We are grateful for him stepping in and helping us catch these violent criminals,” said Police Sgt. Jason Dwyer, a department spokesman. “In the same breath, I have to say that, ideally, we would prefer, for their own safety, that citizens try to be good witnesses. We would hate to have seen Mr. Brown get hurt.”
Brown said he was on his way to work and did not have a gun when he tackled the large suspect, who he stopped from commandeering a truck that stopped on the highway. Brown, who said he held the man down with one hand and called police on his cellphone with another, sheepishly agreed he may have been a bit foolhardy.
“It was instinctual,” said the 36-year-old
San Jose native who graduated from Santa Teresa High and San Jose State. “I felt they would endanger other lives. … And I thought ‘I have to end it.’ “
The arrests of the two men capped a terrifying morning, which began with the robbery reported at 11:36 a.m. at the Bank of America on Snell Avenue in South San Jose. They displayed something that looked like a bomb, according to police.
Carrying an undisclosed amount of money, the suspects took off and soon were speeding in a blue Honda down Highway 85, barely missing other vehicles as they careened away. But they crashed into a minivan, got out of the Honda and sprinted from the crash.
In his Jeep Wrangler, Brown saw the accident ahead of him and thought it was a hit and run. He noted that there was an injured woman at the scene. He is a trained first-aid technician. But other motorists were taking care of her. “I was angry that they had hurt some soccer mom.” So he tracked the two fleeing suspects.
Finally, he parked on the highway and followed on foot, grabbing his security badge but leaving his licensed gun in the Jeep.
He saw one of the suspects “sprinting like the ‘Million Dollar Man’ ” toward a truck at the intersection of highways 85 and 87. Holding his badge, Brown yelled for the suspect to get down. They wrestled. The tattooed suspect was large and strong. But Brown regularly trains with mixed martial arts legend Frank Shamrock.
“I’m quite adept at martial arts,” Brown said.
He grabbed the suspect’s neck and used his leg to sweep the other man’s legs out from under him. The suspect landed with a thud on the highway.
“I’ll cooperate!” the suspect said. “I’ll cooperate!”
Police soon came and took the man into custody.
What did police do when they saw the courageous, semi-crazy citizen’s arrest?
“There were high-fives all around,” Brown said, adding that the officers told him that the suspects were gang members who had been on a bank robbery spree.
The second suspect sprinted onto Gunderson’s athletic fields, only to be arrested by motorcycle police.
The school was placed on lockdown until investigators could scour for weapons and declare the campus safe, said San Jose Unified District spokeswoman Karen Fuqua. The lockdown was lifted at about 1 p.m.
Traffic was jammed for hours as police closed both northbound and southbound 85, forcing motorists to take alternate routes.
By late afternoon, northbound 85 at Blossom Hill Road, southbound 85 at Almaden Expressway and southbound 87 to 85 had reopened.