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County Employee Recounts Chasing Down Robbery Suspect

by ARLnow.com August 18, 2011 at 9:30 am 3,754 61 Comments

By night, Juan Rivera is a mild-mannered conga player and salsa dancer. By day, he’s an undercover crime fighter.

At least, that’s the role Rivera played Tuesday, when he helped to chase down a man who tried to rob a woman at an ATM machine in Courthouse Plaza.

Rivera, an employee in the county’s Commissioner of Revenue office, had just picked up sushi across the street from his office when he saw a man running and someone yelling “thief!” Dressed in a shirt and tie and still holding his to-go box of sushi, Rivera gave chase. Soon, he was joined by two other men, one of whom was calling police on his cell phone. The suspect, a tall, physically imposing man in his mid-20s, tried to flee into a nearby residential neighborhood.

“We went after him, he hid [behind] some houses, and I was like, hey he must be in one of these houses, because he just turned around the corner and disappeared,” Rivera recounted. “So we went looking and he was there. There was some verbal confrontation between him and the other person who was chasing him. Then he ran back into the houses, jumped a couple of fences to keep going, and we were right behind him and jumped a couple of fences, too. When he got to the last fence, which was really high, the police came from the left-hand side and caught him.”

So why did Rivera decide to chase after the man, ignoring the potential danger involved?

“To me, that’s just common sense. That’s just how i do things,” he said. “If someone gets robbed, to me, the people should react in a helpful manner. But there were only three of us that reacted. I didn’t go to tackle the guy… but at least participate in assisting this person who was just robbed.”

“It’s kind of sad to see how little participation there was,” Rivera continued. “I live in Columbia Heights in D.C., and if that would have happened there that guy would have not gotten farther than a block. People over there, they’re going to participate. The men there, if something happens to a woman, they just go.”

“Some kids might just do it for the fun of beating someone up,” he added with a laugh.

Once the suspect was in police custody, Rivera headed back to the office, slightly sweaty but with his sushi still in hand. He told his supervisor what happened, and was granted an extra 15 minutes to finish his lunch. Then, he got back to work. Yesterday afternoon, the victim — also a county employee — came and thanked him.

As it turns out, the suspect never got any of the victim’s cash. She was able to break free from the suspect’s choke hold, cancel the ATM transaction and yell for help, according to police. The suspect, identified as 26-year-old James Williams of no fixed address, has been charged with attempted robbery as well as grand larceny, from a previous warrant.

As for Rivera, he’s taking his five minutes of fame — which included an interview with NBC4 — in stride. After all, he’s already used to the spotlight, given that he plays the conga in two bands.

“It’s not a big deal to me,” he said of the new-found attention.

  • JimPB

    Juan Rivera — a citizen model of the good American.

  • Roadrunner

    Can we get this guy to stake out some BB&Ts?

  • charlie

    good job.
    great to be a great citizen.
    thank you.

  • Nunya

    and to protect the squirrels. please.

  • Tre

    Did anyone else read the recount with the Benny Hill anthem playing in their minds? Also, how did he manage to jump the fences with sushi in hand??


    • SaveDaveMcKenna

      Yakety Sax?

  • KalashniKEV

    Props to this gentleman.

    I would have never figured a low-fade blowout to be a good citizen…

    • hmmm

      You can’t just thank him, can you. You have to put a swipe in.

      • KalashniKEV

        I did thank him.

        Did you also notice that he has a deviant hairstyle?

        • Grandpa Simpson

          There’s a haircut you could set your watch to.

          (A real American haircut)

        • Grandpa Simpson

          This image didn’t post oops.

        • Grandpa Simpson

          Better work this time

        • normal

          No, you didn’t thank him. You insulted him in the guise of thanking him. You lack the honor to simply thank someone.

        • Juanita de Talmas

          What does it deviate from?

  • CrystalMikey

    Kudos to Juan and the two other chasers.

  • BerryBerryCold

    So Arlington is too expensive for county workers, but they can afford Columbia Heights, which is even more expensive?

    • Josh S

      Wake up on the wrong side of the bed?

      Jesus it must be hard to be part of the BBC world – no one is too good to be trashed….

      • BerryBerryCold

        I wasn’t taking a jab at this person, I think what he did was great.

        I was move making a point against the county’s arguments for affordable housing.

    • KalashniKEV

      Avg $/Sq Ft is $389 for Columbia Heights and $419 for Arlington.

      Also, DC is a cesspool.

  • SamsontheCat

    Nice Job!

    Only correction: In Columbia Heights the guys wouldn’t have made it a block before someone else mugged him and took the money he stole.

    • Patrick

      +100 You couldn’t pay me to live in that ghetto.

  • JamesE

    Well that explains it, Columbia Heights so he is used to crime. Us Arlington boys are too soft.

    • SaveDaveMcKenna

      Too hard to chase someone when you’re wearing brown flip flops.

      • Lazy James Badison

        Correct. Had he been wearing blue flips, I’m sure he would have ensued chase.

  • EyeOOOta

    26-year-old James Williams AKA JUSTIN TRAWICK

    • what?

      What are you talking about? No relation/correlation… ??

  • KalashniKEV

    Can you imagine this guy raking in all the Revenue while playing bongos while Uncle Penny Farthing rides his bike around and around his desk?



    • KalashniKEV



      • KalashniKEV

        They would do better that ACPD just by buying better costumes!

        (I can’t stop responding to my own post!)

        • AllenB

          (and yet you should)

          • KalashniKEV

            I know, but I can’t!

  • ArlG

    Awesome story!!

  • South Arlington

    Thanks Juan Rivera, for being a good samaritan. Three cheers for Juan!

  • M Smith

    The cops should have let Juan tase the robber for his efforts.

  • Greg

    Wasn’t Columbia Heights the place where someone recently DIED on the sidewalk after being assaulted while bystanders walked by and ignored him lying there.

    Congrats on chasing the mugger down, but the sanctimony is a bit much. Three people chased this guy. That’s pretty solid.

    • KalashniKEV

      I didn’t hear that, but it doesn’t surprise me.

      Was it near the metro and the Target? Lots of thugs around there.

    • Stu Pendus

      Yeah, the guy could not just take his kudos without taking a swipe at Arlington and saying his hood is so much more tough.

  • SomeGuy

    Just got my Vehicle Personal Property tax notice from his boss, Commissioner Ingrid Morroy, yesterday. If anyone could chase down some money, leave it to a guy in the County Revenue Commissioner’s office. They always get their man… particularly when their man’s face is printed on legal tender.

    That said, this guy did a good thing both for the victim and for any potential other victims in the near future. Nice work, Mr. Rivera.

  • R0bespierre

    Did you know that the M in ATM stands for machine? Therefore, the phrase “ATM Machine” IS REDUNDAAAAAANTTTTT

    Fun fact.

    • normal

      That’s true. Hey, I wonder if I still remember my PIN number?

    • Vinh An Nguyen

      Kind of like the “B” when people say “MLB baseball”.

      • Tabby

        ISO of!

  • Enough already

    Man, what a bunch of whiners. You’re insulting my city! The cops here suck! Nice haircut! Blah blah homeless people. Please get it through your head that not everything you say is entertaining or of value. It’s boring.

    Great job to the people who stepped up when they were put to the test.

  • meh..

    That’s just how he rolls..

  • John Fontain

    This happened to me one time. I was driving in downtown San Diego and a shady looking guy goes sprinting by my car. Five seconds later, several more respectable looking folks go running by, obviously giving chase.

    My instant reaction was to help in some way. Against my wife’s adamant discouraging (“are you out of your F’ing mind, no way!!!”) I drove around the block caught up the guy at about the same time as the others, threw my car into park in the middle of the street, jumped out of the car, and jumped on the guy at the same time as the other chasers, and held him down until police arrived. Admittedly, I doubt that I would have jumped on him without the other chasers right there, but having others gave the group confidence to take the guy down.

    Turns out the guy had snatched a woman’s purse.

    • Joan Fountain

      What if it had turned out he’d done nothing and the others were mistakenly chasing him? You’d feel pretty foolish then, eh?

      • M Smith

        Dude, are you getting schooled by your wife in the comments section of ARLNOW? You’re on the couch tonight brother.

        • Thes

          Only if Mrs. Fontain forgot how to spell her name. But it’s a good point — knocking someone over based on who looks “respectable” is fraught with negative possibilities.

      • John Fontain

        You’re right, I shouldn’t have gone with the odds and common sense. I should have politely said, “Kind sir, do you mind if I ask you a few questions to determine whether your fleeing of the scene is due to a criminal act on your part or whether you just happen to be out on fast run with other strangers just happening to be quickly running in the same direction as you a few yards apace?”

        • Joan Fountain

          You’d fit right in a lynch mob.

          • John Fontain

            Thanks. I sleep soundly knowing I didn’t tackle an innocent man.

  • PikerGirl

    Thanks Juan and other good Samaritans!!!!

  • Jessica

    This is awesome. Well done and thank you! I hope people will remember what you did and help out others in need.


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