Purse snatcher no match for Good Samaritans

Junior welterweight boxer Peter Heliotes came to Chicago recently to fight and he didn't have long to wait.

Heliotes, 20, won a bout on the streets of Lincoln Park when he took down a parolee who robbed a woman after threatening her with a screwdriver late Saturday night, according to police.

The 150-pound fighter had just stepped off the Brown Line around 11:45 p.m. after finishing his day job as a cook. He was about half a block from the Diversey station when he noticed a man across the street who appeared to be hugging a woman. The man seemed drunk because he was wrapped around her.

"Then I realized he was grabbing her purse, he was kind of wrestling with her," said Heliotes, who recently won his first local fight in Orland Park. "I've never really seen anybody get mugged before, but it was kind of my instincts."

As he crossed Diversey, the robber wrested away the woman's purse and she began screaming, Heliotes said. Without thinking, Heliotes said he ran after the man as he headed for the station. "I didn't know if he had a knife or what, so I tried to knock him to the floor by pushing him into the wall," Heliotes said. "He kept running."

Heliotes spotted people up ahead, and the woman called out for them to stop the robber.  A 24-year-old man who was with his girlfriend blocked the robber's path and forced him onto the street.

"I just heard someone yell out, 'Stop that guy," and he's literally 30 or 40 feet in front of me," said the man, who did not want his named used. "For me it was just a split-second decision that I'm going to do this, I'm protecting the people near me."

He and Heliotes wrestled the robber to the ground and took the purse back. That's when they spotted the screwdriver. "I said, 'Was he sticking you up with the screwdriver? She had a mark on her back," Heliotes said. "He was a pretty strong guy."

The two good Samaritans had the robber face-down on the street, but he continued to struggle as police sirens grew louder, they said. At least one other man stepped up and held the man's head down as officers arrived.

"It's one of those hypothetical situations that I think you're always, 'What would I do?' It doesn't even seem like it's real life," said the 24-year-old man. "I'm not even sure you could chalk it up to instincts."

He said he is protective by nature, and that seemed to kick in because he was with his girlfriend and has a younger sister.

The victim, 29, said she was returning to her home after spending the evening watching a movie at a friend's home nearby. She initially thought the screwdriver the robber pressed against her back was a gun.

"I actually thought it was a joke. . .then I realized, 'He may actually have a gun,' " said the woman, who works for a local non-profit organization. "Then he took my purse."

Not only did the two men help get her purse back, they sat with her for more than four hours at a police station as they were interviewed by police and prosecutors.

"How do you say thank you to just kind guys off the street who don't know you and just provided so much safety and security at that time for you," the woman said. "They not only gave me the security that night. . .they gave me the faith that there is good out there."

Jose Rodriguez, 30, was charged with armed robbery with a dangerous weapon and a parole violation. He was ordered held on $500,000 bail.  He has six felony convictions in his background, prosecutors said.

Contributing: Rosemary Regina Sobol


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