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.
Anybody who’s active with the local Habitat for Humanity chapter probably knows Peter Salemme, a carpenter by trade and a tireless volunteer who has been working with Habitat since 1992.
Despite his regular volunteer work, Salemme has apparently not entirely satisfied his do-gooding instinct. At age 59, the married father of five has embarked on a mission to volunteer in 50 states in 50 weeks, all before his 60th birthday.
“A friend of mine passed away recently and the pastor talked at the service about when we leave this earth there are two dates on your tombstone separated by a dash. He said that life is about what you do with the dash,” Salemme told the Mt. Airy News in North Carolina, where he’s helping to building a house. “I recently celebrated my 59th birthday and I wanted to do something big with the dash before I hit 60.”
Salemme, who lives in a Habitat home he helped to build in Arlington’s Green Valley neighborhood, is no stranger to publicity for his good works. In 2006, the Washington Post profiled him after he moved to Biloxi, Miss. to help victims of Hurricane Katrina. Salemme, who had been working as a kitchen designer at the Home Depot in Falls Church, requested to be temporarily transferred to a store in Biloxi so he could spend his spare time rebuilding houses with the local Habitat chapter.
On his latest journey, Salemme has been to Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Florida, South Carolina and North Carolina. He often often relies on friends, churches and volunteers to help him find places to stay and food to eat.
So far Salemme has helped install kitchen cabinets for a family who miraculously survived a tornado, constructed an addition for a man paralyzed in a tornado and remodeled a foreclosed home for an unemployed truck driver. Through it all, Salemme has been maintaining a travel blog where he documents his experiences during his “year of service.”
Next on Salemme’s itinerary, according to the Mt. Airy News, is a a short stop back in Arlington before heading to Texas and points west.
Photo via TravelPod
Northrop Could Be Leaving Arlington — The name “Northrop Grumman” may not grace the Rosslyn skyline for much longer. Capital Business reports that landlord Monday Properties has begun to market the primo office space currently occupied by Northrop, after receiving a tip that the company would be consolidating the office into its new Falls Church corporate campus by next summer. More from the Washington Post.
Metro Hero Interviewed on CNN, CBS Early Show — We have to apologize to Virginia Square Metro Hero Dimas Pinzon. He has apparently been hounded by reporters since we posted surveillance video of him walking over two electrified rails to come to the aid of an injured man who had fallen on the track. Pinzon was just interviewed by his hometown newspaper, the Virginian-Pilot, and in the past couple of days he has appeared on the CBS and CNN morning shows. Oh, and an appearance on the Ellen DeGeneres Show is possibly in the works. More from HamptonRoads.com.
Murray Brings the Bus Back — Republican congressional candidate Patrick Murray has brought back the bus from his successful primary campaign. This morning Murray and the bus traveled to Ballston Metro, where he and his supporters shook hands and talked to voters. The campaign has already posted photos on Facebook.
Flickr pool photo by Mark C. White
Dimas Pinzon was dubbed (by us) the Virginia Square Metro Hero after he jumped to the track and stepped over two electrified rails to come to the aid of a man who had fallen in the path of an incoming Metro train.
What Mr. Pinzon did was certainly well-intentioned and brave. But was his act of heroism also incredibly ill-advised?
Surveillance video obtained by ARLnow.com sheds new light on the incident.
The video starts out with a man, who was suffering some sort of medical emergency, walking toward the edge of the platform in a daze. He falls onto the track just as the platform lights begin blinking, signaling the arrival of a train.
Immediately, people at the station jump into action. Good Samaritans on either side of the station sprint toward the train, frantically waving their arms. Mr. Pinzon, in a blue shirt on the opposite platform, points to the crawlspace under the platform, urging the fallen man to get under it to avoid being hit by the train.
The train, however, slows as it enters the station. As it’s coming to a stop, Pinzon jumps down to the trackbed. He steps on the flimsy cover board of both electrified rails, and comes to the man’s aid. Another would-be hero jumps down to the track, but turns around after a brief stare-down with the third rail.
Pinzon, meanwhile, helps to lift the injured man onto the platform, where other Metro customers evaluate his injuries. Another man helps Pinzon himself get back up to the platform.
Hours later, our interview with Pinzon is published and NBC4 also airs a story on the rescue.
It’s a happy ending, but Metro spokesperson Ron Holzer says it could have taken a much more tragic turn. Had Pinzon tripped while jumping down to the platform, for instance, he would have landed on the third rail and been electrocuted by 750 volts of electricity. Pinzon’s decision to step on the third rail cover was also fraught with danger.
The first thing Dimas Pinzon did when we got him on the phone was ask if we knew how the guy he helped to save was doing (he’s okay).
A day earlier Pinzon — a.k.a. the man in the blue dress shirt — had jumped into the path of a Metro train to come to the aid of a man who fell on the tracks while having an epileptic seizure. Then, after the train stopped short and he had helped to hoist the nearly 200 pound man to safety, Pinzon gathered the papers he had dropped on the ground and casually got on a train toward Union Station.
It’s hard to imagine a more ideal hero under the circumstances. Pinzon, 57, is a retired Marine Corps lieutenant colonel. His father, an electrical worker for the New York City transit authority, used to take him on the subway and teach him about the dangers of the electrified “third rail.” Despite knowing the dangers, Pinzon hurtled two electrified rails in his effort to get the victim to safety.
It all started around 12:15 p.m. Pinzon noticed people screaming on the other side of the station and saw that a man had fallen onto the tracks. At the far end of the station, the light of an arriving train was becoming brighter. Sure that the train was going to hit the man, Pinzon called out for him to lie in the crawl space between the track and the platform. The victim, dazed and in pain, slowly started to get up, but was not getting under the platform.
“I saw that the train was slowing down, and I saw the guy standing up and he was wobbling around, so it was like, this guy’s going to fall back or something bad is going to happen,” Pinzon said. “I just said to hell with it, someone’s gotta get to him.”
He jumped onto the track, stepped over both third rails, hurried over to the man and put him in a bear hug. With the help of two people on the platform, Pinzon lifted the man to safety. After being helped back to the platform himself, he asked the station manager to call 911. With the man being taken care of by the other riders, Pinzon collected his papers and went back to the other side of the station, where he boarded a train to Union Station.
“My job was done, and I figured I’d go on with my business,” he said.
Update at 2:30 p.m. — We found him, and we’re hoping he can get permission from his employer to talk with us. Thanks, everybody.
We’re trying to get in touch with the guy who risked life and limb yesterday to help save a man who had fallen on the tracks at the Virginia Square Metro station. We’d love to find out how he had the courage to jump in the path of an arriving train, and how he got the idea to roll in the space under platform had the train not stopped short.
All we know about this gentleman is that he was wearing a blue dress shirt and that he left on a train — without much fanfare, it seems — shortly after incident.
Firefighters and paramedics responded to the Virginia Square Metro station this afternoon, after a Metro
employee rider had an epileptic seizure and fell onto the trackbed.
Other customers immediately came to the man’s aid and helped him get back up to the platform according to WMATA spokesperson Ron Holzer. An Orange Line train was arriving at the station the time of the incident, but came to a stop before it reached the fallen man. Power to the third rail was turned off shortly after he fell, Holzer said.
The incident happened around 12:15 p.m. When paramedics arrived they applied a neck brace and loaded the victim onto a stretcher, according to scanner reports.
One witness shared this harrowing account of incident in the comments below:
The man was waiting for the Vienna train. He appeared to be mid-twenties, about 200 lbs, wearing a backpack. He appeared disoriented then started toward the tracks. Someone yelled “watch out watch out”. The lights were blinking because the Vienna train was coming. The man stepped out into thin air and fell forward onto the nearest of the two tracks. The track got him right in the ribs, and he lay there.
Some people started yelling “get up get up”, and others ran toward the tunnel exit, waving at the Vienna train to stop. A man in a blue dress shirt on the New Carrollton/Franconia side dropped his papers and jumped into the track bed. The victim was saying “I can’t move” but he slowly got up. Blue dress shirt hopped to the Vienna side just as the victim was getting to his feet. Blue dress shirt was standing behind the victim, bear-hugging him. He was maneuvering the victim toward the platform when the train emerged from the tunnel and came to a stop about 100′ from the where they were.
(The train peeked out of the tunnel by about 30′. I was surprised that the train was able to stop so quickly – apparently the driver responded to the people waving and/or saw the two people on the tracks. There was no screeching of brakes or anything that I noticed – the train appeared to stop pretty comfortably with room to spare.)
Two people who were working on the Vienna-side escalator grabbed an arm each and pulled the victim from the trackbed. Blue dress shirt pulled himself out onto the Vienna platform. The victim was laid down on his back with his head propped up. He was saying “my back my back”. A female metro employee with a walkie-talkie appeared and reported on the situation.
After multiple assurances, the victim stopped panicking and was able to relay a phone number to the metro employee. Blue dress shirt called across for somebody to grab his papers. The man nearest did so, and blue dress shirt crossed back to the New Carrollton/Franconia side. The Franconia train, which had stopped, emerged slowly from the tunnel, parked, and opened its doors to take on passengers. Blue dress shirt boarded the train. He had two knuckles on his right hand that were badly swollen. He guessed that he had accidentally punched the concrete when he grabbed the victim. He said that his plan had been to pull the man beneath the platform as the train pulled up. Luckily we never found out if this plan would have been successful.