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EXCLUSIVE: Bystanders Take Down Would-Be Thieves on Metro

by Katie Pyzyk July 18, 2012 at 1:45 pm 14,229 99 Comments

(Updated at 3:05 p.m.) A group of bystanders helped out a Metro rider last night (Tuesday) by tracking down and detaining three men who allegedly tried stealing a woman’s cell phone.

Springfield resident Jonathan Jackson says he was riding the Blue Line home around 7:00 p.m., when he noticed a man acting suspiciously. When the doors opened at Arlington Cemetery, the situation grew weirder.

“All of a sudden we saw this guy weaving in and out of the train cars,” Jackson said. “He ran into our car and then ran into the next car down.”

Just as the chimes were ringing for the doors to close, Jackson says a woman ran out of the train yelling that the man had stolen her phone. That’s when Jackson ran off the train and onto the platform trying to find the accused thief. He saw that farther down the platform, several people had tackled the man.

“At that point, I thought the best thing I can do is call the cops,” said Jackson.

Jackson called 911 while others detained the alleged thief.

“It really was a team effort, but nobody even knew each other,” said Jackson.

Jackson says for a while, two other men, who appeared to be the alleged thief’s friends, tried freeing him while he was being held on the ground. After a few minutes, however, they took off. Jackson believes bystanders followed the friends and pointed them out to police, because they were detained along with the accused thief.

Metro Transit Police were the arresting officers, and they were assisted by Arlington County Police. According to WMATA spokesman Dan Stessel, the accused thief is 17 -years-old, and has been charged with robbery. Police talked to the other two people who were detained because they matched witness descriptions, but both were released.

“We’ve had a few snatch robbery events this year where witnesses or victims chased after the criminal,” Stessel said. “But it’s not something we encourage because of the potential of injury. It’s always best to let the property go. This one has a happy ending, we’re certainly happy for that.”

Jackson believes the train driver must have seen what was going on, because he kept the doors open while bystanders ran down the platform to catch the alleged thief. The train reportedly ended up holding at the station for about 10 minutes, until police arrived and were able to make arrests.

Although he has heard of people having their electronic devices stolen on the Metro, Jackson said it was far different to witness it. While he obviously can’t say for certain, he said it didn’t seem like this was a one time incident.

“It seemed like it was pretty well coordinated,” Jackson said. “But they just didn’t anticipate a group of people stepping in.”

There are no reports of injuries from the incident.

  • Southeast Ben

    Best news all day…though they’ll probably get off somehow.

    • Ben

      Well – they were arrested in Virginia and not DC – so hopefully not.

  • JimPB

    Chalk up a big plus for the Metro train operator who held the train, with doors open, at the station, while the primary thief was apprehended, properly putting public safety over the train proceeding on schedule.

    Big up a Big + too for the citizens who apprehended the primary thief and for the citizen who called 911.

    And — kind of sounds like the police got to the station quickly to take custody of the primary thief and to arrest his two apparent accompliances.

  • Good Grief

    Awesome – glad to see there are still some outstanding bystanders!

  • that guy

    Rock. On.

    Atleast they were better than the people at the bus stop on the Pike with the dead man!

    • 20011

      Well, of course. This is the Commonwealth. If you are dying on the street, don’t expect anyone to help you. Pull yourself up by your bootstraps! Take some responsibility!

  • ARLrez

    This is awesome. So glad to see the perps caught.

  • nunya

    excellent work!

  • South Awwlington

    I heart this.

  • curious george

    Awesome job!

    Too many people won’t get involved and the miscreants know this.

    Guess they picked the wrong train 🙂

    • JustSayin’

      I agree, Curious. and i’ve always thought that if more people than not WOULD get involved and stand up to thieves/bullies/etc, these perps would be so heavily outnumbered that they could never win and would always be caught. but, like you said, people will sit back and watch and say to themselves ‘this doesnt affect me, so why should i bother’. someday though, it just might be you in that position wishing the 30 other riders/pedestrians/etc would step in and help you out.

  • Taxpayer

    Actually that would be a good question for ARLnow to track down:

    Which Authority Arrested them:
    1) National Park Police
    2) Metro Police
    3) Arlignton Police
    4) MPDC?

    • Taxpayer

      and I’m not so good with uniforms to tell from the photo

      • SouthernPrincess

        That looks like an ACPD uniform to me.

        • Bob Stevens

          ACPD. Definitely.

    • JohnB2

      The one with the helmet appears to be Arlington PD from the patch on the shoulder. The other one is wearing a similar uniform so is probably APD too.

    • JohnB2

      It’s funny too because they’re always telling you in the station announcements to call Metro Police for incidents that occur on the metro but I bet ACPD can get there much quicker in most cases. Some stations (like Ballston) have a semi-permanent police presence, which is nice.

      • Loz

        Ballston is a really safe area even the station. The homeless there really don’t do anything and the area is upper-mid income lvl. To be honest even in the “bad” areas on the metro I’ve never felt that my life was in danger, but to be fair. I’ve spent a fair amount of time in places like shenzhen, kowloon, guangzhou, itaewon, roppongi. Sooooooooo maybe my threshold of what I consider safe is different, but living in places like Beppu where there is no murder rate let along petty crime rate has also lowered my guard a lot, but I never really feel the need to be at guard in DC area. Sometimes I think a lot of that just stems from a lot of people who ride the metro being very sheltered in their suburban communities. So much so that their social skills and the fact that urban interaction is a different culture just sucks. This was my experience in Fairfax. I was shocked to learn that ppl are less talkative and friendly in Fairfax/Vienna than in Arlington, DC, Alexandria, etc. Even New Yorkers during commutes have a better demeanor than the folks in the NOVA area… Though me being black may play a role in that, in that I think so many ppl here just have some kind of fear. Doesn’t even matter how well I dress. It is very well interesting. Especially as a graduate student. Anyway I don’t really care too much now, since I live in the Pentagon City area…

        • Narrator

          …we now return you to your regularly scheduled programming.

        • Amanda

          Um…I feel safer in Itaewon than the DC metro. It might be “more dangerous” than the rest of Seoul, but it’s still safer than here. Plus Korean metro systems are head and shoulders above our’s.

    • nunya

      the helmet and leather jack boots look like scooter detail. id go with 2 or 3.

      • WeiQiang

        The motorcycle officer has an ACPD patch on his shirt

    • Katie Pyzyk

      While those are Arlington Police in the photo, the department tells us they were on the scene in an “assisting capacity.” We are waiting for more information and an official statement from Metro Transit Police.

    • Ron

      Arlington PD held him. Metro police took the arrest. This idiot probably had NO clue where he was. Arlington Cemetery??!! No where NEAR the ‘hood he lived in!!!

  • Southeast Ben

    looks like acpd from the uni in the photo…i could be wrong…probably am.

  • Here’s the answer

    ACPD is in the photo and detained them until Metro Transit took over. Anything in the station is Metro jurisdiction. So, Metro Transit took over and completed the arrest.

  • Hollywood

    That’s what you get. THAT’S WHAT YOU GET. lol

  • Yay!!! Great news! Congrats to all the brave people involved. Now we must be sure metro does not fire the driver for helping out. If they do fire him we better all scream very loudly.
    Proud to see such great heroes.
    I think that is the Arlington police too

  • drax

    Stupid criminals anyway. Their plan was to run away from Arlington Cemetery station? And slip into the crowds on the busy downtown streets?

  • Ziz

    Hate to say that the first thing that popped into my mind is how long until the thief sues the bystanders for his “injuries”? Or the thief sues them for “loss of freedom” when he gets jail time for the crime?

    • steve

      Fortunately there aren’t enough liberals in VA yet for the legal system to become that insane here, yet…. However when more liberals flee liberal states due to liberal policies like high crime and high taxes, they will turn the new place into the craphole they fled.

      • drax

        Nice empty rant, guys.

      • kingbing

        Do you hear yourself? That kind of villainizing rhetoric doesn’t do anybody any good. If you replaced “liberal” with any ethnic group of your choice that would sound like some seriously racist BS. How is it any better to demonize people wholesale that don’t share your political views? You’re a sucker if you buy into that crap.

        • marie antoinette

          Liberals are an ethnic group?

          • Louis XIV

            Oh can’t can’t really be that stupid. Can you?

          • observer

            stupid enough not to know which Louis was married to Marie Antoinette?

          • Louis XIV

            I’m not married to that hag.

          • WeiQiang

            Maybe he just like the furniture style.

          • marie antoinette

            Tres bien! And no, Lou, it’s called sarcasm.
            L’etat, c’est moi??? You must have had some great advisors because you are pretty stupid.

        • drax

          No, steve doesn’t hear himself.

        • Truth

          “Villainizing” or not, it’s totally true and you KNOW it. Don’t bring race into it just because you don’t have any valid counterpoints.

      • marie antoinette

        +1 Steve!

        • Robespierre

          I’ll get you, my pretty.

          • Collot

            and I’ll get you

      • Greg

        Given the metro ridership demographic and Arlington County’s voting results, the people that took them down are likely liberals. Meanwhile, you sit in your ivory tower overlooking the Internet.

    • Joan Fountain

      Right wing propaganda. That stuff rarely happens.

  • J Winger

    that’s how we roll in the ARL!

  • Thug

    When me and my goons used to rob people noone f*cked with us. Of course well all big tho, im 6’4 and 380lbs and everyone always scared of me. lol

    • WeiQiang

      “goons”? Col Klink?

      • nom de guerre

        Sounds more like Sgt. Schultz.

    • 2nd Amendment Fan

      No worries Thug…your 6’4 380 wouldn’t scare me and my 6’5″ 265, coupled with concealed carry Glock 23. It works just fine on both big and small targets and I’m one heck of a trained shot. So you might want to think twice about who you try to rob these days because you never know who is carrying. You wouldn’t want to meet the same fate as your two thug brethren who got taken out by a 71 year old man in Florida the other day when they tried pulling an armed robbery.

      • KalashniKEV

        There’s a great vid of that, BTW:


      • JDS

        “So you might want to think twice about who you try to rob these days because you never know who is carrying.”

        This has been the case for quite some time now, and hasn’t had any effect on murder rates. There’s no reason to keep trotting out this tired canard.

        • When the murder rate is already negligible…

          It’s not going to change much. Arlington’s rate hovers south of 10 a year, and has in recent years.

          That said, compare other violent crime and robbery rates. They’ve dropped precipitously.

          While you may be oblivious to whether your friends and neighbors have guns (if you don’t, then statistically your neighbor on the left or your neighbor on the right does), criminals aren’t.

          And in a place like Arlington, where 1 in 20 people walking around in Clarendon on a Saturday afternoon is packing, you better believe the criminal element takes that into account when they decide to pass their time mugging people in Georgetown rather than along Wilson Blvd (despite the latter being quite a bit easier to get to).

          • JDS

            The ‘criminal element’ wouldn’t hang out in Georgetown either, because handguns are legal in DC and have been for about 3 years.

            Are you seriously trying to prove that the second amendment causes lower crime rates? Because the second amendment has been around for, oh, about 220 years. And crime rates have risen and fallen many times since then, independent of the amendment’s existence.

          • Curious George

            Actually it is still quite difficult to legally get a gun in DC.

            And even if you jump through all the hoops you can’t carry it either openly or concealed.

          • KalashniKEV

            Please check up on Emily Miller’s work regarding this issue- It is still nearly impossible to obtain a licensed handgun in the District.

          • KalashniKEV

            Yes, but those of us who remember the dark Clinton years know that our rights have not always been accessible. This is also a state’s rights issue- see what happened to the rate of violent crime when FL became a “Shall Issue” state and when LA extended Castle Doctrine to a citizen’s “Personal Conveyance.”

          • Joseph Smith

            The dark Clinton years, when the dollar was strong, the economy was booming, unemployment was low, and the Federal budget was in surplus. Trying times indeed.

          • KalashniKEV

            I’m glad the Clinton years were good for you- I was struggling in an Army with an austerity budget and living with my essential constitutional freedoms denied!

        • drax

          It certainly does affect murder rates.

          People who are armed are less likely to be murdered.

          • Justin

            wrong again.

    • Not so fast

      > im 6’4 and 380lbs

      At least we don’t have to worry about you fleeing the scene. We’ll just follow you down the street as you waddle away so that we can point you out to police (plus kinda hard to blend in with a build like that).

  • CrystalMikey

    Very very cool. Kudos to the brave citizens, train operator, and ACPD!

  • Clarendon

    Nice job, citizens!

    To the thief – really, you did all that for a cell phone ?

    • Not me

      Hint to thieves – Blue Line near the Pentagon – not the best place to avoid guys who are capable of running you down and holding you against their better judgement – try a line were there are more wimps like me and all you’ll get are a bunch of 911 calls from very nervous passengers and someone to calm the victim down. Props to them, but I wouldn’t do it – and I wouldn’t advise most unarmed and untrained people to try that. Cool that it worked out though.

      • Aaron

        It’s a safe bet that there were very few Pentagon guys on a southbound train at Arlington Cemetery station at 6pm, or at least, no more than you would find on any other line at that hour.

      • KalashniKEV

        LOL… I was going to post the same thing!

        Blue Line = Beatdown
        Orange Line = Better stuff to steal and more wuss’s per capita.

        • HayDiosMio

          Green line = no one give a fudge.. same 5hit, different day…

          what can we expect of the silver line?

      • NauckThreeTimes

        Just get back from Paris?

  • P. Monroe

    Bad generally only triumphs over good when the good people do nothing.
    Glad to see these people took action. TAKE BACK OUR SOCIETY!

    • KalashniKEV

      Very sad statement from the WMATA spokesman though. There is only one path for Criminals in a civil society- pursuit, apprehension, detention, death/incarceration.

      • drax

        Yeah, Kev, but sometimes the path ends up being pursuit, apprehension, innocent would-be hero gets seriously injured or killed over a phone, criminal gets away anyway. Which is the point WMATA was making and everyone understood.

        • KalashniKEV

          …and that’s just called “life.”

          Being a decent human being precludes standing by while others are victimized by scum.

    • HayDiosMio

      please do credit the quote.. you probably don’t know where the heck it came from but you go it off Call of Duty video game….

      • KalashniKEV

        (can you point me in the right direction? It’s quite possible they got it off ME!)

        • Aaron

          KEV is Edmund Burke? Really???

          “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men
          do nothing.”

          • KalashniKEV

            Not that guy, but my DNA is combined from the extracted unearthed remains of Julius Caesar, Napoleon Bonaparte, Attila the Hun, Philip II of Macedon and his son Alexander the Great, Ivan the Terrible, Vlad the Impaler, Hannibal, Genghis Khan, Grigori Rasputin, Montezuma, Geronimo, and Egyptian general Xanuth Amon-Toth. Sun Tzu’s DNA was also intended to be part of the experiment, but the attempt to obtain his DNA was thwarted by Sgt. Slaughter.

          • Aaron

            Citation? Where is the data to support this assertion? You Come back when you have the data. This I command!

          • KalashniKEV


          • Boom! Roasted



  • charles

    [Post removed per comment policy]

    • JimPB

      Charles — There is no connection between this apprehension for theft/robbery and MLK and the civil rights movement — when citizens (adults and children) confronted those who would continue to deny rights with right and love. All the violence (and there was a lot of it) was perpetrated by deniers of rights. A modal picture: Whites assaulting white and black Freedom Riders or walkers for civil rights while the police stood by, perhaps saying “enough boys” after the riders or walkers were beaten badly. And of course, the police and firemen not infrequently participated in the attempted suppression of civil right actors. Remember the videos from Birmingham of Bull O’Connor ordering the fireman to turn their high pressure water hoses on children in their Sunday clothes and policemen to advance with their attack dogs and billy clubs.

    • Las Delicias Neighbor

      I don’t fully understand this comment, but a nasty odor accompanies it.

  • Cynthia

    Amazing story! Good for those damn thieves/assholes.

  • KalashniKEV


  • T:GEOA

    “We’ve had a few snatch robbery events this year”

    Someone call Clarendon Skank and see if she is ok

    • South Awwlington



    • Justin Russo

      Why steal what’s given away for free?

  • ArlForest

    +1 for the northside

    • KalashniKEV

      The North remembers!

  • South Side Chris

    The cops may not be able to encourage it, but I sure can. Good job done all around.

  • Mariterri

    I was on that train, and it appeared that the would be thief overshot the escalator that would have allowed him to escape and didn’t really have anywhere else to go. Everyone involved was completely awesome, including the train operator who stayed on the scene. The police came very quickly. I have to wonder that since this was at Arlington Cemetary, is this a crime that occurred on Federal property. That might change things.

    • UA

      All of the Metro can be considered Federal Property, along with the staff.

      • KalashniKEV

        False. DC Metro Transit Employees are NOT Federal Employees and the Metro is NOT a federal facility.
        (This is why they always announce- this is the LAST stop in the commonwealth before crossing into the district)

  • neerveer

    So, Metro Transit Police actually get credited for the arrest of one juvenile delinquent, with ACPD the assist. The two alleged friends got away. Great team work.

    • Ron

      He’ll give up his friends……They’re wussies at heart!

  • George

    I was there when it happened, I didn’t notice anything until I saw this girl screaming “GIVE IT BACK!!”, as her screams got more intense, I knew something was wrong. Eventually these guys got taken down by bystanders a few cars ahead of where I was. It took police about 5-10 mins to get there, but man I wish I recorded a vid, it was pretty crazy stuff.

  • Mike B

    I almost got jumped at Gallery/Chinatown for my gym bag by five young kids with masks. The train came so I think just thought to find someone else. The kids pretended like I started a fight. It sucks becaus now I keep my iPhone in my pocket without the headphones on.


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