A soldier home on leave in Sarasota, Fla. was in a bank Tuesday with his two little boys when he suddenly found himself in the midst of an armed robbery. With the suspect waving his weapon, the soldier calmly stepped up and took charge.
Army Staff Sgt. Eddie Peoples, an Iraq War vet, can be seen standing in the background in a bank surveillance video with his 4- and 6-year-old boys as the robber enters the bank and waves a gun.
The suspect demanded money and threatened to kill anyone who didn’t get on the ground.
Sgt. Peoples directed his boys to get down, moving chairs in front of them, and stood there, guarding them. Just before the suspect fled with a bag of cash, he turned and pointed his gun at the 6-year-old and made a threat.
Peoples said, “He pointed the weapon at my son and the exact words — I’m not sure — but it was something of the nature of ‘Don’t try anything or the kiddie will get it.”‘
So far, so good. Tactically speaking, Sgt. Peoples did everything right. Protect the kids, get yourself between the bad guy and your kids, provide camouflage or cover for the, as best you can. What happens next takes us into the realm of where wise men don’t go, since angels fear to tread.
Sgt. Peoples took umbrage at the robber pointing his gun at his 6-year-old and threatening him. But the robber leaves and Sgt. Peoples follows him out of the bank. Now I’m thinking, “the threat is no longer here. I need to get my kids out of here, and let the police handle everything else. Nope.
Sgt. Peoples follows the (armed) bad guy out of the bank and sees him climb in a white minivan. (A criminal driving a minivan? They’ll have to take some poetic license with that, when they shoot the made-for-TV Lifetime movie.) The good Sergeant gets into his own car and rams the van, keeping the perp from escaping.
As I’m reading about this, I’m thinking, “Okay…Peoples must have had a carry piece in the car, because going after an armed robber is suicide.” Uh…no. The robber exits his
mom-mobile minivan and the Sergeant thinks I’m gonna take two through the windshield. Nope. The angels were with him. Again. Still. Peoples exits his vehicle, and the robber puts the gun to Peoples’ forehead.
Peoples said, “When he put that gun in my face after I got out of the car, I did a wrist lock on him. Got him in a half Muay Thai clinch around the back of the neck. Brought him down to the ground.”
Only after this, did the Sargeant discover the gun was a toy. Nice to know. But let’s look at the many ways this could have turned out badly for our hero.
First of all, playing the hero is a bad idea, armed or not. There’s a reason the police have armored vests, high-powered combat rifles, Tasers, et cetera. Unless you’re walking around like Judge Dredd, going all RoboCop on somebody is generally a bad idea.
Second, once the threat is no longer present, it’s time to turn your attention to triage – take care of your kids! Leaving them behind to go chase the bad guy may be heroic, but a dead hero is absolutely, positively of no use whatsoever to two young children. (And as it turns out, he had a couple more at home.)
Third, if you are going to be foolhardy enough to go after a bad guy when your kids are no longer in danger, you might wanna have a backup plan. Of course, if he’d HAD a gun and used it, he would likely be brought up on charges by the DA for vigilantism, and likely at least Murder Two, since no one was in mortal danger after the robber left the bank.
The Sarasota County sheriff honored the married father of four for his bravery.
I would have, too. But then I would have pulled the Sergeant aside, and told him DON’T DO THAT AGAIN.
Peoples said, “It was a new variable for me, because I’ve never been in a situation where my children have been in danger. So after I got over that part, I went into action.”
As a parent, I get it. The adrenalin is flowing. You want to DO SOMETHING. You have the instinct that you have to take out the guy that threatened your kid. But (hopefully) there’s a rational part of your brain, telling the instinctive part, Slow down there, Matt Dillon. Take a chill pill and lets assess the sitch, and maybe do a quick risk/reward analysis on this one.
“He didn’t say it to me, per se, but said it to the whole bank,” Peoples recalled. “But he pointed the weapon at my 6-year-old, because he could see him at the end of the sofa, and he said something to the effect of ‘Don’t move or the kiddies will get it,’ and I was just like — I couldn’t believe it, you know. And after that, he — I guess he looked at my face, because I was really upset then, and he said, ‘You, the big black guy, don’t try anything,’ you know, and then he left.”
Yeah, that would trip my trigger, too. But protecting your kids is Job #1. And when he left the bank, it turned from “protecting his kids” to “retribution for threatening his kids.” Which can get you killed. Or arrested/convicted/sentenced/imprisoned. Just ask that Pharmacist in Oklahoma.
Peoples said he did it all to stall the suspect and give the police some time to get to the scene.
As for the kids in the bank, Peoples’ 6-year-old Ikai said he wasn’t scared.
He told Hill, “I knew (I would be OK), because he’s in the Army, so he would beat his butt, because the bad guy’s not in the Army, he’s just a normal guy.”
Peoples said, “Actually (my 6-year-old) ran up to me because, whenever I go in deployments, I always tell my boys to put in perspective that Daddy is going to fight the bad guys, and I walk into the bank, and he walks up and he goes, ‘Daddy’ — I mean, in a loud voice, you know, ‘Daddy, did you get that bad guy?’ or ‘Did you kick that bad guy’s butt?’ And I said, ‘Yeah, Daddy got him,’ and there were three dozen in there, and they started clapping and applauding and everything, so then I gave them all hugs.”
It’s a heartwarming story. And the guy IS a hero. But he, his wife and his kids are extraordinarily lucky that he’s not a DEAD hero. Or sitting in his town’s equivalent of a Riker’s Island jail cell.
The Sarasota Herald-Tribune reports deputies arrested the suspect. The Sheriff’s Office identified him as Matthew Rogers, 34, a homeless Sarasota man with a criminal history, including arrests for burglary, auto theft and reckless driving.
I don’t care if the perp was a 60-year-old grandmother who’s in the Altar Guild in her church, with an outstanding civic record, with not so much as a parking ticket on her record, and who knits helmet cozies for our troops. But I have to admit, it makes you feel a little morally-superior and righteous when you hear that this idiot has a long rap sheet.
Of course, that begs the question, “why was this moron allowed to roam around and cause more trouble?” Obviously, the guy’s no mental giant – statistically, you have about the same chance of being eaten by a Great White as you do pulling a bank job and getting away with it. Life is NOT like the movies.
Which is why, while I applaud the bravery os Sgt. Peoples, I hope he won’t do try this again.