Mike Brunn says Anthony Tobias saved the day. Tobias called Brunn the "true hero."
Police are crediting both fast-thinking Modesto residents for helping catch two teenagers suspected of stealing purses from two women in their 70s walking in downtown.
"The two citizens did an outstanding of getting those guys into custody," Modesto police Lt. Scott Blom said Tuesday. "I applaud them for grabbing this guy."
The Modesto women were walking Monday afternoon in the busy alley that runs north-south between 11th and 12th streets near Wells Fargo Bank. Two teenagers approached them from behind. The suspects knocked one of the women over, stole their purses and took off, Blom said.
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Brunn, 46, an insurance broker, heard one of the women screaming and saw the suspects running toward him as he was walking southbound in the alley toward J Street.
He turned and ran after them and was quickly joined in the chase by the speedier Tobias. The 24-year-old unemployed bank worker was on the corner of the alley and K street when he heard Brunn yelling at the suspected robbers.
The two followed the suspects across K street into the parking lot of the Brighter Side sandwich shop, where one of the suspects tripped. When he got back up, he was tackled by Tobias and, eventually, Brunn. They were able to hold him until a police officer arrived a minute later.
Soon after, two officers from the department's street crimes unit caught the other suspect running near Ninth and L streets, Blom said.
Police said the man officers caught was Anthony Anderson, 18, of Stockton. The bystanders captured a 17-year-old boy from Modesto whose name was withheld because he's a minor. The suspects were booked into the Stanislaus County Jail on charges of robbery and conspiracy to commit a robbery, Blom said.
Neither of the victims, whose last names are not being used to protect their privacy, said they noticed the men coming from behind.
“I just felt a hand on my head, and they pushed me down,” said Maria, 70. “I was on the ground and he was pulling on my purse and I looked at him and saw his foot and thought, ‘Oh my God, if he kicks me, I’m really going to get hurt.' That’s when I let go.”
Said the other victim, Isidra, 74: “They shouldn’t be doing that to older ladies.”
Maria suffered a cut to her knee, and both were left sore from the attack. Their purses, contents intact, were returned to them.
"The lucky part of all of this was Anthony was there," Brunn said. "He's a lot younger and faster than me. If Anthony wasn't there, I wouldn't have been able to hold down the guy."
Said Tobias, a 2003 Riverbank High School graduate now living in Modesto: "The real hero is Mike. He was the one who saw what happened. He went after them initially."
Brunn said he was taken aback when he heard the scream and saw the suspects as he was returning to his 11th street office.
"It took a second for the lightbulb to turn on," Brunn said. "They had purses in their hands, and I thought, "That’s not right.' "
Tobias was walking toward his car on K street near the Wells Fargo ATM when he hear Brunn yelling.
"My initial thought was that they stole something from Mike," Tobias said.
He followed the three, eventually passed Brunn, then tackled the teen, who struggled and swung at Tobias, cutting Tobias near the eye with his watch or ring.
Tobias said the suspect pleaded with him to let go, saying his back was getting burned by the asphalt, and promising not to run if he was helped up. When Tobias helped him up, continuing to hold on, the suspect tried to flee, but Tobias pushed him back down, and seconds later, the officer arrived.
Blom said detectives are looking into a possible connection between Monday's incident and robberies Saturday morning in which a man threatened four people with a knife and a handgun, stealing one woman's purse and hitting two people in the face when they told him they didn't have any money.
All four victims on Saturday were in their 50s or older, including an 86-year-old man and a 63-year-old woman.
Police Sgt. Brian Findlen said there were no indications from the police report that the suspects in Monday's incident were armed.
Brunn said the stunned by the nature of the crime.
"These two ladies couldn't have been more than 4-foot-5," he said. "They were senior citizens. ... It shocks you how violent these younger guys were."
While Blom lauded the bystanders, he did caution that there's a risk in going after suspects and that "first and foremost, be a good witness" — get a license plate number and a description of the suspects.
Brunn said: "It was shocking. Your brain really doesn't register what is going on. Halfway through the chase, you wonder if you're doing the right thing. You never know about these clowns.
"You don’t really think about it until you get home and you're sitting on your couch with a beer."
Tobias, who has been out of work since August after being let go by the Wells Fargo in Riverbank after nearly five years there, said he felt bad for the two victims. But in reflecting about the incident with his girlfriend and family, he was struck by the age of the suspects, and hoped they could find a way to turn their lives around.
"These guys were really, really young, and already going down the wrong path," Tobias said. "It's good that they are off the street. Maybe they can think about what they did, and get some help."
Maria couldn’t be more thankful for the quick actions of Brunn and Tobias.
“They’re great,” she said. “They were lifesavers to me.”
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